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Mavericks by Joker

With friends like these, who needs enemies? 

It’s 2023 and they say Blackburn is on the upswing. They say that the Rust Belt is becoming the Tech Belt. But hundreds of thousand still languish in poverty. Crime is omnipresent and the light at the end of the tunnels seems like an illusion.

To prevent a slide back into the bad old days, four unlikely heroes will have to fight their inner demons and find strength they didn’t know they had. Along the way they’ll assemble a supporting cast and learn to work together to combat villains they wouldn’t be able to alone.

Note: Mavericks contains pervasive graphic violence and harsh language.

A series

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Listed: Sep 25, 2017


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Machine Like Efficiency

By Syphax, author of Stone Burners

Feb 2, 2019: [Note: This was done as a review trade]

I am a fan of efficiency. Waiting for the pasta water to boil? Do fifty push ups. Given the choice between ten words and twenty that say the same thing, I will chose ten every time. However, all things in moderation. Cut too many words and the desired effect will be lost.

While the story does follow several different points of view, the story begins with our main character, Wilbur. He has returned to the crime ridden city of his birth, the fictional city of Blackburn. Several different gangs and criminal organization plague the streets, quite literally. Five minutes after arriving Wilbur fights off two gangsters harassing a woman on the street, which brings him into contact with another character, Mouse.

Mouse, the second main POV character, helps him with information as he decides to take the fight to crime, more specifically the main antagonist, Skinnyman. And we know he’s the main antagonist because characters refer to him as “sick” over and over again, with machine like regularity. And, more seriously, illegal human experiments with people he kidnaps, which are later shown to be quite gruesome.

What makes Wilber the best to step up to this walking crime against humanity? Well, he’s a rich, bored kid with dead parents at the head of a major company and with access to top of the line, experimental gear. He’s totally not Batman, though! He’s got a shock glove instead of a batarang. All joking aside, despite the obvious similarities there are severe personal differences between the two characters that are apparent from the get go. Namely, that Wilbur is written to be purposefully annoying. Purposefully annoying is still annoying. I don’t get much from Mouse, other than she doesn’t like bad people. A Punisher like character who develops later is much the same.

How is all of this conveyed, you might ask. Dialogue. Almost half the story is dialogue, and it swings between flippant to weirdly formal and stilted. The lines, “I still don’t condone your foolhardy crusade” and “What do you need, boss man?” are said by the same character inside of two paragraphs. Most of the dialogue is in a forced cool, casual way. Annoyingly enough, lots of the aforementioned dialogue does not get names attached. Often I would have to pause reading in order to parse who was saying what, rather than simply getting lost in the story.

The other half of the story is character actions, sometimes drifting into matter of fact lists of things that happen, stripped to the bone with machine like efficiency. When it is presented to the reader as action instead of a list is where the story shines. This leads to a weird dichotomy where maybe the fight scene will read like a to-do list, or maybe it will read like the pulse pounding, edge of death action that was probably originally envisioned.

The world, what glimpses we do get, is incredibly well fleshed out. Different neighborhoods are given their own little personalities and histories. It’s a shame such descriptions are few and far between, and rarer still are the descriptions of the basic surroundings of the characters. But more than a paragraph or two of descriptions will get in the way of the efficient progress of the plot. What is there is great, I just wish there was more of it, because what is there is intelligently laid out.

The same cannot be said of the gangs they fight. Apparently you need to have a lobotomy to become a henchman in this universe. “What the hell is going on?” asks a man wandering into a room, after a bunch of gunshots go off and his friends scream in pain. While fairly standard for superheroes, this is still a pet peeve of mine. This seems to have extended to all levels of government, as at one point a character casually walks into a shop and buys all their C4. You know, the highly controlled and dangerous plastic explosive that cannot be bought commercially. The case could be made that the store was a black market front, but I would counter with the fact that absolutely nothing was said to set that up. The case could also be made that in the future this takes place in, restrictions on C4 sales have been lifted. And again, nothing was told or shown to the reader in this scene to indicate this.

The main character starts fighting Skinnyman. Why? Because Ryan, a guy he met five minutes previously, hates Skinnyman. Also, Mouse, a woman he just met five minutes previously. told him he should, and he was bored. The real reason seems to be “He’s the antagonist, and this is superheroes. Of course they’re going to fight.” While I appreciate the efficiency with which the plot progresses, more emotional stakes might make the reader care more. A story is more than dialogue and lists of actions.

Efficiency and streamlining seem to be the order of the day here. So much detail, big and small, seems to have been cut for the sake of being cut. Sure, the reader can just use context clues to figure out who is talking. Two whole words, saved! A gang hideout is an old chemical plant. The reader knows what a stereotypical run down factory is supposed to look like, they can fill it in from there. Two to three descriptive paragraphs, saved! I hesitate to call this lazy. Time, love, and effort has clearly been poured into this story, its characters, and the world, but only those specific portions. If this story becomes fleshed out, my opinion will change, but until then I can only give this a mild recommendation.

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