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Superheroes With A Horror Edge

By Rhodeworks, author of Not All Heroes

May 18, 2018: Review of the first 12 chapters (episodes) and bonuses. NOTE: This review was written before the rewrite and therefore is not entirely accurate. Rewrite buffed the score from 4 to 4.5. Review adjustment pending.

IN SHORT: Inheritors feels like a solid entry into the arena of ‘vaguely young adult’ superhero web fiction. All in all, the fact that it operates so comfortably in the genre is both a positive and a negative. A strong beginning that I feel will only improve, especially given Episode 12.

IN DEPTH: Inheritors follows Gabe, a vigilante who is the cloned ‘descendant’ of Megajoule, the world’s best superhero. Gabe grapples with the existential questions of who he is and his purpose while bringing justice to the areas of a fairly dystopian Houston that the legitimate authorities seem to be ignoring. All in all, I found Gabe a hard protagonist to enjoy initially, although he has some wonderfully humanizing moments (such as picking up a tab in a restaurant) that broke down that barrier.

But my problems with Gabe, I feel, stem more from the first-person present-tense style that Inheritors is written in more than the character concept itself.

As mentioned, the style is a fairly comfortable young adult prose with a rough bent of telling instead of showing (and there’s nothing wrong with that, it’s popular). Because of this, there’s a lack of immediacy to the writing, leaving the prose feeling somewhat robotic. Sometimes the narration feels as if we are hearing the story from Gabe, as if it has already happened, and other times it tries to place us ‘in the moment.’ The story feels like it is wrestling with itself.

I found myself drawing comparisons to other web serials and other works in the superhero genre. Some of the comparisons were positive to Inheritors, others were negative. I would not say that Inheritors is derivative of any of them but that it hasn’t quite found its own voice or style just yet.

The story is exposition heavy, particularly in the early chapters, and the repeated motif of Gabe watching a video log wore thin very quickly. There is at least one early character who feels like an exposition machine.

As mentioned, Inheritors feels like a young adult novel, albeit one with a dose of violence and swearing. At the same time, it has characters exhibit a catch-all ‘quasi-swear word’ that does a lot to dull that edge and kicks it back to typical YA territory. But then there’s a fairly lengthy sex scene that felt out of the tonal range of the rest of the story.

I feel this tension suffuses Inheritors and is its biggest flaw as it stands.

The fight scenes are similar. There is an early fight scene where it feels like Gabe is getting fairly heinously wounded, to an extent that surprised me and was a bit confronting to have happened so early, but then he doesn’t seem to experience any of the ill effects of it. It feels consequence-free. At the same time, there are fights where characters are maimed and killed without fanfare. Some actions scenes suffer from unclear blocking and character-as-camera effect (the latter being hardly unique to Inheritors in the world of web fiction).

The sentence structure is a bit rough. It’s not bad or unclear, but it rarely feels like it flows. Suspense and tension don’t quite come through. Often times, there were points where the need of the internal monologue to spell things out to the point of redundancy removed the dramatic effect from several lines that otherwise would’ve been quite strong and effective and make me feel more like I’m in Gabe’s head than it otherwise did (where Gabe reflects about being in the trenches, for example).

However, at the same time, there are several bits and pieces, lines, expressions, use of words, phrasing, and so on, that made me smile. There are a fair few sentences and sections that I put a positive note on, often revolving around descriptions of Houston. This is what kept me reading Inheritors and held my interest to the extent that I read it quickly (alongside some interesting characters, bits of worldbuilding, and unanswered questions). There is some skill here, some thought put to the prose, and just some neat ways of expressing things.

Overall, I found the pacing a bit haphazard. Individual episodes are long enough and structured in ways that made me wonder why they weren’t split in two as some of them would otherwise end and begin with more of a ‘bang’. Along those lines, a usage of line breaks could really help demonstrate the flow of time in certain episodes. The story just powers forward and I found myself just wanting time to breathe.

Similar to the lack of line breaks, there are some (fairly minor) formatting issues. There are some pretty chunky paragraphs in some episodes, some of them involving both protagonist internal monologue and dialogue and can make them unclear. On the other hand, spelling and grammar are quite good. However, I’m absolutely not a fan of phonetic spelling when it comes to a certain character’s heavy accent.

However, despite all of these criticisms, by the time I finished Episode 12—which contains some very interesting work, it made me sit right up and take notice—I wanted more. There are some pretty cool ideas in this story but I can’t quite judge how well the story explores them just yet. But I want to see where it goes with the foundation it has constructed.

That’s Inheritors in a nutshell, really. My assumption is that the criticisms I have are mostly teething issues, ones that can be smoothed out with experience, confidence, or just a razor’s edit. There’s a quality here that shines through when it’s not obscured by redundant sentences or exposition or character-as-camera. I think with care and consideration and development, Megajoule’s serial will go interesting places.

As I read, My numeric rating vacillated between 3.5 (fairly solid) and 4 (solid). I feel it leans more towards 4 than 3.5, particularly coming out of the ending of Episode 12 (I don’t particularly like cheerleading, so, I’ll just say that it was a very effective ending and leave it at that, Megajoule!)

All in all, if you’re looking for a comfortable read that fits into the ‘vaguely young adult superhero story’ genre in the vein of Worm and others, albeit with a touch more grit and darkness, I’d strongly recommend Inheritors. It seems like it’ll be one to keep an eye on.

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