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Webcomic Review: The (Somehow) Endearing Supervillain Origin Story of “String Theory”


String Theory is a heartwarming tale about Dr. Herville Schtein, a grey-haired, self-absorbed, misanthropic, misogynistic genius physicist who miraculously changes his ways (sort of kind of not really) when he falls in love with Delia Osgood, an adorable and equally genius intern.

At least, that’s what you’d think if you only read the first few pages of the webcomic.

Written and illustrated by Dirk Grundy, String Theory began in early 2009 and has been updated more or less weekly ever since. It’s set in an alternate timeline around the 2060’s, where “the Cuban missile crisis went terribly wrong leading into a spinoff universe where America is still stuck in a cold war with two Communist powers and is not doing so well” – leading to a world that’s arguably way, way darker that the universe we all ended up in. We’re first introduced to Dr. Schtein while he’s still working for the U.S. government, heading up a team of scientists. When a workplace rivalry turns deadly, Schtein is ripped from his comfortable, if lonely lifestyle, and thrown into one dangerous situation after the next.

It’s here where the comic that starts out as your typical romcom set-up quickly morphs into the greatest supervillain origin story of all time. (Okay, maybe not of all time, but it is ridiculously entertaining to see Schtein’s growth from a run-of-the-mill douchebag, to someone who will probably destroy the world at some point and cackle while doing it.) For a guy with so many irredeemable qualities and actions, Schtein somehow managed to really endear himself to me – and though I never quite get to the point of rooting for his success (and I doubt I ever will), I still don’t want him to fail, if only for the continuation of this great comic.

Besides main character Schtein, the comic boasts a large, strong, and colorful cast of side characters to flesh out the physicist’s story, including his mad scientist grandfather, a friendly but completely insane serial killer, and a suave, mysterious man decked out in dapper suits and superpowers. The dialogue often hits laugh out loud levels of funny, and once the real plot kicks in, the fun action sequences and character driven moments keep the comic moving forward at a steady pace.

String Theory‘s artwork evolves dramatically in the four years since its conception, going from sparsely decorated black and white panels, to beautifully colored pages with intricately designed backgrounds. The artist cleverly justifies this in the very first page, as Schtein wakes up in the hospital after a lab accident with newly installed prosthetic eyes that just so happen to only see in black and white. When color is finally introduced to the comic, it shows up with a bang – quite literally (warning: spoilers if you click the link.)

Currently running at nearly 240 pages,  String Theory is a great way to spend an afternoon. You can read the comic from the very beginning here.

Rating: A