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Not Gilgamesh

By Syphax, author of Stone Burners

Nov 7, 2015: Take Worm. Now take Whateley Academy. Mash them together and you have a good portion of Brennus. Despite how this sounds, this is an observation, not praise or criticism. Unless something happens to be Gilgamesh, it’s an uphill battle to be truly 100% original. And, when Brennus does get to be it’s own thing, it works quite well, and I thoroughly enjoyed reading it. There are some things I didn’t like, well, one big thing, but I’ll get into that later.

We start with Basil trying and failing to hide his newfound powers from his overprotective sister, Amy. This over-protectiveness is due to the fact that they are recently orphaned, and have no one but each other. What doesn’t help is that his sister is, in fact, a famous and new villain, while Basil more wants to go the hero route. So begins the tale, as Basil adopts the name Brennus, builds a small team of vigilantes, and balances his psychotic sister.

I mentioned before the Worm and Whateley Academy similarities. It’s plot is very much it’s own entity, though similarities in the world do exist. By similarities, I mean that, at one point, someone asks why heroes and villains don’t murder the shit out of each other on a regular basis. The resulting conversation was almost word for word from a scene out of Worm. I understand taking inspiration, but come on. However, this is an extreme example, though a shame because when Brennus is Brennus is when the story really shines.

‘So what are those shiny bits?’ you might be asking. Things aren’t always as they seem in the world of Brennus. A power may come with an important caveat, or a master plan unfold far differently than I or the characters expected. Is there really a voice in Basil’s head, or is it part of his power, or is he just going off the deep end? Maybe some combination of the three? Who knows? Not I. Not Basil.

A lot of thought has gone into the rest of the world as well. There is darkness to the world, but it is by no means all doom and gloom. Life goes on, even after catastrophes and warlords. People are people. I felt a lot more sympathy for the side characters than half the main cast at any rate.

At first, Basil seemed like a bit of an emotionless mannequin, but as the story moved on I grew used to him. He is by no means an expressive person, but the writing progressed to where he at least wasn’t a robot. His teammates are far more lively, though sometimes fall into that old ‘exasperated girl dealing with oblivious boy’ trope.

Now, for those other characters I mentioned. I did like one of the people in Basil’s life, a girl with body image issues who gets a slow shapeshifting ability and goes too far in the other direction. I found her sympathetic, as well as other characters. On the flip side, I get the feeling Lady Light and the Dark, the main evil guy, are supposed to be super complex and meaningful, but they struck me as more schizophrenic than anything else.

Now, the one major issue I had, as has been noticed in other reviews, is the sheer amount of creep present in the story. It took me three tries to get into Brennus. The first time I couldn’t get past the first chapter and its creepy incest vibe as Basil lovingly describes his sister’s body. To the author’s credit, this has since been removed. The other two times were because of similarly high levels of creep, though not of the incest variety, thank God.

Every female character, almost without exception, is introduced with a description or mention of her breasts. Every time. On one hand: boobs. Hooray for boobs. On the other hand, come on, we’re not twelve anymore (unless you, the reader, happens to be twelve, in which case you probably aren’t old enough to read this). The guys don’t get this kind of treatment either. At one point the remains of a team is running from a monster. Paraphrased without spoilers, this is what goes through the POV character’s mind: ‘Oh god, we’re gonna die. How are we gonna escape? Oh, hey, someone disintegrated my teammate’s clothes, and only her’s. She has a nice rack. Oh god we’re going to die.’ My eyes rolled so hard they nearly popped out of my skull.

Aside from that, the exposition could be tighter. And by tighter I mean cut in half. That’s not to say it should be removed, but that is to say it could be presented to the reader in half as many words. If a paragraph takes up my whole screen, I’m just going to skim to get the gist of it. And I have other little quibbles, like the Soviet Union being named the Sovjet Union for no reason at all and making me think it was a weirdly consistent typo for the first dozen times I saw it, but that kind of stuff is minor.

From a technical standpoint, beyond the aforementioned massive tumors of expository paragraphs, I had no real problems with the story. Spelling errors seemed most pervasive, though they got less and less obvious the longer the story went on. There could be some cleaning up of sentences and whatnot, but not to the level it truly took me out of the story.

At the end of the day, if you don’t mind a rough start, this is a good superhero tale. The creep present is an obstacle, but you’re always one google search away from far more depraved shit, so for all I know it won’t even blip your radar.

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