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New addition to the Superhero Serials

By Wildbow, author of Ward

Aug 9, 2012: Super introduces us to Lex, an American businesswoman with some martial arts ability she picked up during a rough childhood. She is invited into a secretive agency that employs people with special abilities. Three chapters in as of the writing of this review, there are already hints of something deeper going on.

Chapters are long, the story is focused, and each character has a distinct identity. Lex actually has a life before the story’s beginning, and she seems to be a well rounded character with her own strengths and flaws. Speaking as someone who has read (and written) other stories in the genre, I’m eager to see if the author Palladian can develop the martial artist superheroine, which hasn’t (to the best of my knowledge) been focused on in other serials.

The story appears to update monthly (third Thursday of every month), with chapter length ranging from 6k to 8.5k words. I’m disappointed by the fact that each chapter ends on a low note, relying on unanswered questions rather than snappy language, conflict or cliffhangers to draw readers back in for the next installment. Those looking for a web serial style read with more of a hook between chapters may be disappointed, as it reads more like a novel that has been parceled out in large chunks than a traditional serial. On the basis of this fact alone, I wonder if the story will retain readers. A month is a long time to wait, especially without baiting the hook.

The language remains fairly strong, struggling only periodically. Some segments of dialogue feel stiff or fall flat and there are a few awkwardly constructed sentences. The -ly adjective comes up with some frequency, a trap warned about in many a writing course and list of tips for writers (the -ly adjective can almost always be deleted or rewritten and the work will be better for it). Overall, some ‘showing, not telling’ aside, the balance between exposition and action is good and the narrative voice is strong. A quick read-through by a beta reader before a chapter’s release or a couple more chapters of practice would easily fix most of my complaints in terms of the writing itself.

The story is established on Livejournal, with white text on a blue-green background. Some of the links sort of disappear into the background (including the all-important navigation links) and the line length is somewhat tiresome on a widescreen monitor, where the eye is forced to travel 4/5ths of the way across the screen with each line of text.

While I’m nitpicking, I’d also point out that I’m bugged just a teeny bit by the name of the main character. ‘Lex’ is a name grounded so firmly in the superhero genre that even people who have never picked up a comic book would likely be familiar with it. It distracts.

Super has laid the groundwork for something that could be stellar. Seeds have been put in place for any number of potential areas of conflict: Lex’s abusive estranged father, her clandestine employer, her relationship with her wealthy husband and the country’s involvement in ongoing wars. Add the Charlie’s Angels style all-female group of heroines and the (as mentioned earlier) martial artist character and the story holds promise as something that could stand apart.

A verdict on the story as a whole will have to wait until more than three chapters have been released, but readers who find these elements to their interest would be encouraged to take a look.

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