Crimson Dark is a Sci-Fi webcomic created by David C. Simon. Volume 1 ran from 2006 to 2012, ending when Mr. Simon moved to Austin, Texas to work on Star Wars: The Old Republic for Bioware. He came back to the comic four years later, publishing a one-shot story in October 2016, then starting Volume 2 in November.
Kari Tyrell is a fighter pilot in the Republic of Daranir's military, who are at war with the Cirin Alliance. She's become something of a hero of the Darani military, (supposedly) turning the Battle for White-Rim around singlehandedly. However, her carrier is later unceremoniously destroyed by a Cirin ambush, and she's written of as dead. As she would later find out, she's more useful to the military as a martyr rather than a pilot, so she agrees to stay "dead" and join up with a privateer group under the command of one Vaegyr Ward.
The comic uses both 3D renders (done in Poser 4) and a heavy amount of Photoshopping on top of them (for example, the clothes are done in photoshop, as are explosions). The author is a big fan of Firefly, but the comic had an engaging and complex story of its own, with a familiar but distinct setting.
The main storyline concluded in 2020, though Simon said he might return to the comic sometime for more minor stories within the same universe (but probably won't). Sometime after the comic completed, it was taken down from the author's site with a message that he's planning on reposting it after some formatting changes to better fit his main site.
Tropes seen in this webcomic:
- Absent Aliens: None have been encountered, and the Souri have proved that explored space is effectively all of habitable space, so there probably aren't any in store.
- Actual Pacifist: Daniel. He shoots Hal to save Whisper, but still feels horrified by his actions.
- All There in the Manual: The database.
- And Your Little Dog, Too!: Abraham Mensk threatens to go after the families of Vaegyr and his wife. Vaegyr responds by just shooting him. This displays either extreme stupidity, overconfidence, or just underestimation of his opponent in Mensk, because Vaegyr was about to let him go.
- Arbitrary Weapon Range: Handwaved. Because conventional weapons' ballistic projectiles will keep going until they hit something (causing collateral damage), ballistic weapons are illegal in space. Instead, they use energy or plasma weapons which become weaker over distance.
- Black-and-Grey Morality:
Kari Tyrell: Patriots start wars. The good ones end them. But there's nothing safe about those people. It's the patriots who'll get you killed.
- The Cirin Alliance are pragmatic assholes who think nothing of colluding with pirates, sticking A.I.s in corpses to create suicide saboteurs, or even re-enacting 9/11 on military stations staffed with human shields. However, the Republic of Daranir are liars who think nothing of re-enacting the Blitz to force conquests to surrender, after which they hold kangaroo courts denouncing the enemy leadership as terrorists.
- The United Terran Coalition gets involved in conflicts as a third party to "liberate" contested planets and use their economic might to bully independent worlds into joining them.
- Butch Lesbian: It turns out Kari is a lesbian, with a girlfriend named Ren who's also a pilot. Kari habitually has a short haircut and wears masculine-style military clothing.
- Combat Pragmatist:
- The Cirin Alliance have this as their hat. From using cybernetically enhanced AI-controlled corpses as saboteurs to hiding out in wrecked ships and using the distress signals to lure nearby Republic ships into ambushes, the Alliance is willing to do just about anything if it will give them an advantage. Their ships are also mostly former civilian craft that have been upgraded to warships.
- They are also not above dealing with pirates.
- Color-Coded for Your Convenience: Republic ships are blue, while the Alliance ships are red. Even the exhaust colors match up.
- Computer Equals Monitor: This trope is in full force here when Kari shoots out an infected workstation. Whisper comments on the implications of the situation here.
- Cybernetics Eat Your Soul:
- There are several groups such as the Human Purity Movement that honestly believe this, though out in space they are generally a minority.
- The JAKs used by the Cirin Alliance take this to the extreme, using the corpse of a human that has been implanted with an AI to control it. They are used as saboteurs, where being already dead allows them to more effectively stow away aboard ships and makes them entirely expendable. They are highly illegal, not that the Alliance cares. Of course, the Republic also uses JAKs as unquestioning troops for their black ops units.
- The Mazikeen or "Wisdom" virus is a Contagious A.I. that infects people with Controller-class implants. Either weaponized by the Souri Collective, or the Souri themselves.
- Cyborg Helmsman: Controllers are more commonly plugged into stations and capital ships as cyborg traffic control, technically.
- Deus ex Machina: There was one news snippet that mentioned the existence of Souri Behemoths before one pulled a Gunship Rescue for the protagonists. The one person who knows they were allies didn't know one was going to show, or why they are helping the Alliance in the first place, and since they refuse to communicate ship-to-ship, the readers never see or hear them until much later.
- The Empire: The Cirin Alliance, though mainly in their opposition to the Republic of Daranir. They're serious Combat Pragmatists who are willing to fight dirty if it means winning. And they frequently do.
- The Evils of Free Will: The Mazikeen virus, aka "Wisdom." One of its victims goes on at length about how its guidance ensures that everyone does the right thing.
- Gambit Roulette: Though not used, the idea is roundly mocked.Dan and Vaegyr get caught trying to break Kari out of jail.
Kari: This is the lamest rescue ever.
Dan: Well, we did get you out of isolation.
Vaegyr: Yes, everything is going according to plan.
Dan: Except that we didn't anticipate any of this.
Vaegyr: It's one of those retroactive plans, it only makes sense in hindsight.
Kari: (to one of the guards) Is it too late to say that I've never met these two men before in my life?
- Hereditary Republic: The Republic of Daranir is officially classified as a constitutional monarchy by the UTC, as the "Chancellor" is a hereditary position.
- Hollywood Hacking: Whisper can lock and unlock doors with her mind, for starters.
- Home by Christmas: At the beginning of the war, the R.A.S.F. proudly proclaimed that it would be over in three weeks, because that's the time it takes to jump from Daranir space to the Cirin homeworld. It's been over a year since then.
- Insistent Terminology: Kari would like to remind everybody that Captain Ward is a "...privateer."
- In Space, Everyone Can See Your Face: It's used on Kari's space suit when she goes outside Wraith to investigate Scar's wreckage. The writer notes this is unrealistic, but says it's necessary or else you'd be looking at nothing except blackness.
- Instant Sedation: Lampshaded along with Tap on the Head in the footnotes to this strip:Voranisol is an instant-sedation drug that has a low risk of side-effects. Writers all across the galaxy rejoiced when it was invented and they could finally stop pretending that a bonk on the head was a harmless sedative.
- Kinetic Weapons Are Just Better: Subverted. Conventional guns and other kinetic weapons ARE quite useful, but have been banned due to remaining effective at very long ranges, or leaving rounds in orbit that effectively become unexploded ordnance. Dissipating energy "lances" are used instead. The Souri have no such qualms.
- Layman's Terms: Inverted in this strip.Vaegyr: Kari, what's your assessment?
Vaegyr: Yes. I was hoping for something more tactical in nature.
- Lethal Chef:
- Vaegyr. His chili is the stuff of nightmares.
- Actually, he's a memetic lethal chef. The other characters give him grief, but some of them like his chili just fine.
- Major Injury Underreaction: Whisper displays this here, though Word of God on the next page indicates that it pretty much IS just a flesh wound.
- Masculine–Feminine Gay Couple: Kari is revealed as being a lesbian, and fairly masculine in her appearance. Ren, though she also has boyish short hair, is the more feminine partner, somewhat girlish in comparison.
- Masochist's Meal: Again, Vaegyr's chili. Slightly subverted in that his wife Larissa has grown to like it, though she would rather not tell him that.
- Mental Affair: Because of the extent to which Whisper's body has been replaced by cybernetics, this is the only way she and her boyfriend could ever be intimate.
- Motor Mouth: Ren falls victim to this trope when she gets stressed.
- Ninja Pirate Zombie Robot: The JAKS are Illegal Ninja Zombie Cyborgs.
- Old-School Dogfight: World War II style fighter combat, only in space.
- Only a Flesh Wound: Averted. Daniel shoots Hal in the leg, and Hal winds up losing the leg.
- Orbital Bombardment: The Republic has been bombarding the Cirin planet Farhaven for months, claiming that they've only been targeting strategic assets, but the locals have a different story.
- Playing Both Sides: Mensk is the secret contact of the pirates with both the Alliance and the Republic.
- Privateer: Vaegyr Ward is quite insistent that he's a privateer, not a pirate.
- Proud Warrior Race Guy: The Daranir Republic has this as their hat. They make heavy use of propaganda, and their architecture is cathedral-like to show how the military has an almost religious aspect to it.
- Queer Establishing Moment: Kari reveals she's a lesbian when she introduces her girlfriend Ren. Before, her sexual orientation is not shown at all.
- Ragtag Bunch of Misfits: Word of God indicates one of these will appear in Volume 2 as can be read in the comments here.
- The Republic: The Republic of Daranir, though some of their actions are pretty questionable. The blockade of the planet Farhaven and using JAKs to slaughter everyone aboard a civilian ship just to catch two Cirin spies are just two examples. Then there is the fact that they use their border military bases as trading ports, putting civilians directly into the firing line of the Cirin Alliance, who are not exactly known for giving a damn about that sort of thing.
- Running the Blockade: Cirin Alliance planet Farhaven has been besieged by the Republic of Daranir for quite a while. Vaegyr Ward got offworld on a blockade runner, and in chapter 12 the Farhavenites stage a mass breakout with Alliance military and mercenary support.
- Sealed Evil in a Teddy Bear / Death Bringer The Adorable: Literally toyed with while being hinted at in this strip.
- Shell-Shocked Veteran: Kari, though not as severe a case as most. Her experiences at the battle of White-Fall left her with PTSD.
- Shout-Out: Space stations named after Jane Espenson and Tim Minear. Also, the captain of Kathryn's Glance, as the crew prepare to attack Espenson Station, says 'Have fun storming the castle.'
- "Shut Up" Kiss: Whisper gives Dan one of these.
- Space Is an Ocean:
- If the picture didn't give it away, the comic uses this one quite a bit. Some cases are more justified than others. Ships have a bridge, a noticeable top and bottom, are laid out with decks parallel to the direction of travel, and are named and classified in the usual manner of sailing ships. And that's not even mentioning the pirates.
- Spacecraft also have red and green navigation lights like ships (and planes).
- The one exception to this is that fighters are often seen flying upside-down or sideways. Of course, the fighters have their own physics violations...
- Space People: One in ten people who were raised in space develop Spacer Syndrome, which causes extreme motion sickness whenever they're exposed to natural gravity. Kari has it.
- Space Pirates:
- Replete with them. Some are worse about it than others.
- Insistent Terminology: Vaegyr is a privateer, not a pirate.
- Super-Soldier: An actual in-universe classification. Military forces are prohibited by treaty from making their regular soldiers more than 40% synthetic, but Super Soldiers are exempt from that restriction, such as the Republic's Marines they're also JAKS
- Talking Is a Free Action: Completely deconstructed when Mensk gets shot from behind while trying to convince his guards not to go rogue. Considering the people he'd been openly trying to kill for a long while were right behind him, this may have been a bad call.
- Technology Porn: Lt. Ren Takagi found the ship's manual.Ren: What can I say, I like ship porn.
- Token Religious Teammate: Daniel is a Christian missionary who leads Bible studies sometimes and gets called a "Bible basher", though he doesn't actually push it on anyone. The author said he added this because he's a Christian as well and wanted to counter the idea that religion would have died out in the future.
- Uriah Gambit: Saphira sets Mensk against Vaegyr... with the expectation that Vaegyr will then kill Mensk. Though Larissa is the one who actually pulls the trigger.
- Why Don't You Just Shoot Him?: Deconstructed. You don't do it because his uncle is a pirate warlord. Of course, you can then just shoot the uncle...
- Word-Salad Humor: When the Nargun Exchange Controller refuses to speak to Whisper, she responds by rattling off a crazy salad of terrorist and advertising keywords, creating a barrage of low-level alerts that the Controller finds too irritating to ignore.