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(From Freefall. Click on image to see full-sized image.)

Last Sunday I reviewed Schlock Mercenary, and commented that outside of a couple other comics, it was the oldest science fiction comic around. Soon after, a fan going by the handle “Freak” commented that Freefall was actually older than Schlock Mercenary, and Howard Tayler (who writes/draws SM) verified that Freefall was two years older.

So I decided to start reading Freefall, and allowed myself to be drawn into the archives. It’s not the first time I’ve encountered Freefall; Websnark has on several occasions snarked this comic. I just never bothered to stick around for long. You see, I was going under a misconception from the panels I’d seen that Freefall was “just another furry comic.”

I couldn’t have been more wrong.

Freefall is a delightful and whimsical science fiction story following Florence Ambrose, an engineer who happens to be a Bowman’s Wolf. Or in other words, she’s an intelligent humanoid wolf, one of only 14 in existence. Further, she’s an engineer, and also wants to put herself forward as professionally and intelligently as possible, so that her species as a whole will continue.

I say that and it doesn’t sound so whimsical and delightful, does it. But trust me, it is. We have Sam, an alien con-artist who’s captain of the ship Florence has been (through “clerical error” (ie, Sam bribing a clerk)) assigned to; Helix, Sam’s robotic partner who is pure enthusiasm and also easily knocked apart; Winston, the local vet who helped save Florence’s life during a hurricane and whom Florence is attracted to, and a cadre of secondary and minor characters to fill in the rest of this world.

While the story is somewhat slow-paced (I mean, the comic has lasted (on a MWF schedule) for seven years? and it’s only taken a few weeks of time, if that), it is still rather interesting, whether following Florence and Winston on a “dinner date” she takes him on to thank him for saving her life, or Sam, Helix and Florence going into space to deploy satellites.

The comic does follow Sam and Helix, and I suppose you could consider Sam the other main character of the comic. He certainly appeared before Florence did (by a week or two). Despite that, I still consider the comic to be about Florence, rather than about her and Sam. The fact that she’s working to secure the existence of her species and considers every day a test for her raises her importance tremendously. I don’t see Sam as important for much more than comic relief (though that he provides in great detail).

That’s not to say that Sam’s the comedian and Florence is his straight woman. Whether she’s killing a deer with a piece of road (so it’s “road kill”) or convincing the ship’s computer not to kill Sam, she does have a sense of humor, and can use it quite well.

But if the comic was about Sam, it would be quaint and cute but wouldn’t catch my attention. Florence caught my attention. And it wasn’t the amount of teeth she can bare in a smile.

So I definitely recommend you read this one. The website design for archives is minimalist and the file sizes for each comic are fairly small, so it will load fairly quickly even for dial-up users. It’s just what the veterinarian ordered.

Addendum: Florence’s transfer was thanks to a “gift” by Sam to a clerk. Florence isn’t aware of this, and personally I think the clerk did this to cause problems for Sam in the long run. Special nod to Freak who pointed out I forgot to mention Sam’s involvement in the “clerical error.”