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BLACKLIGHT

Chromatic Conspiracies Chasing Children (also people getting mulched)

By ElliottThomasStaude, author of Mourners, Abednego, Persistence

Jun 14, 2019: Blacklight is an odd duck. Total honesty: at first, it seemed like it was a superhero work doing everything in its power to disguise that fact – nothing against superhero fiction, but it carries certain expectations. Instead . . . it’s not exactly clear into what bucket Blacklight should get shoved. First, the setting’s an Earth-like locale with countries that have certain obvious parallels to present day but nothing so transparent as simply renaming France to Nonexistentia or some such. It’s not something that falls under “alternate history,” though I suppose you might run into something like the world described therein if the Romans had gotten their phalanxes handed to them by one of their many historically subjugated foes. There’s a bit of mystery, in that there’s an urban fantasy vibe which the majority of people just don’t understand or acknowledge (dead siblings coming back as ghosts and such). A pinch of political bug-ranching here and there. In the final calculus, though, imagine Pokemon where the Pokemon are different exotic matter substances, there are far fewer Pokemon in existence, the act of winning a Pokemon battle is achieved when the other person stops breathing, and you’re a homeless person who never asked to be inducted into an illegal sort-of-sorcerous back-alley cage match fighting lifestyle and who just wants some confidence in getting your next meal. It’s like pogs but with murder, and murder’s about the only way to believably escalate the pogs model in any case.

So far, Blacklight’s marshaling forces to become the best supernatural THING it can be. The cast is a bit odd; main character’s a vagrant youth exclusively haunted by her dead sister, trying to go along and get along in a country where she has difficulty speaking the language, let alone being evenly treated in light of her ethnicity. The one has massive personal issues from her sister and the fact that she’s being dragged feet first into stuff she doesn’t understand, and the other one has massive personal issues on account of being dead. They’re a dynamic duo, sure enough, and it’s interesting how much common ground you can have with someone talking to a floating person that relentlessly teases her and who regularly has to go days without food fit for human consumption. It’s a surprisingly thematically sturdy work; there’s elements of coping with racial ostracism, but it also dives into matters of where one’s planting their roots constitutes “home.” It asks questions touching on the nature of abandonment. When you look into Blacklight, you’re looking into something quixotic in the best way possible; on the one hand, the more traditional sense of lone-understanding where the principal cast has an understanding of a secret world. On the other hand, it asks where one falls when strong conviction rams up against everything our peers say can possibly be true.

So far, Blacklight has thrown a hundred questions into the air and provided very very few answers. As things go forward, hopefully resolution will pick up momentum, but that fifty two pickup of information dump may put some readers off its progression. I find it endearing, but being a weird person on every level that may not hold for everybody. Other than that, though, the tiny snippets of story dispersal might strike a bit of a sour note. There’s obviously the intent to keep people updated on the goings-on of the incredible necromancer sister and her sibling’s antics. However, the decision to make more frequent publishings of smaller quantity gives it a bit much of a start-stop air. Perhaps twice the length of an episode put out half as often will improve other peoples’ enjoyment as well by letting them stay in the action longer. It’s something worth following, but as a binge-inclined individual I prefer my medicine to come in slightly larger doses.

Urban fantasy with kind-of-historical fiction and character driven storytelling is a jam that many will appreciate. Solid grasp of cerebral philosophy. There’s something worthwhile to be had here for a lot of consumers, if they’re willing to supply the patient attention. Weird? Several kinds of weird. And weird will always have a place setting at THIS table.

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AKA

Also Known As…Quite Promising

By Hejin57, author of Music Masters

Mar 16, 2019: It seems the age of web fiction is a sea of superhero stories these days. It becomes more and more difficult to separate various stories in settings that seem to melt in one another.

On today’s agenda we have the aptly named aka, a pretty clever title if I may say so.

The story of this ongoing tale revolves around one Nathaniel Thomas Peterson, who lives in a world where metahumans, or metas, are a known and accepted fact of life.

This particular setting though, goes all in when it comes to government involvement with supers, sort of echoing what might have happened if Iron Man had won Civil War. Laws on metahuman activity are strictly monitored and punishments for using ones powers unsanctioned are quite severe.

Nathan, however, has no desire to use his powers, opting instead to live a simple life as a janitor at the well-known Daedalus Technologies.

Like many stories, the story is told in the first-person point of view. It does a good job of portraying Nathan himself, but I lament not getting to know more about other characters such as the Eagle, Anarchist, and his liaison James.

Speaking of Nathan, he’s perhaps not the most unique character, but he gives off at least a likable vibe comparable to Peter Petrelli of Heroes fame or Will Hunting. Nathan’s power, when finally shown, is at least interesting enough that the story keeps you wondering how it may develop and grow as the story goes along.

While the supporting cast isn’t anything mind-blowing, there are some highlights in some later villains and in the interesting relationship between Nathaniel and his liaison James.

Beyond the idea of metahuman parole officers being pretty interesting, I think something that sets this story apart is that it focuses on Nathan’s unwillingness to confront the idea of being a hero, as he’d much rather live a simple, mundane life than face the stresses that heroes have to handle in this day and age.

As mentioned before, the first villains shown so far, the aptly named Gold Diggers, show a lot of potential in particular from what we see of them in the most recent chapter.

My only really complaint with the story might be its shaky beginning, which can come off as little bland and has some minor spelling and grammar mistakes. The narrative and voice definitely gets a lot stronger as the chapters go on though, and based on recent developments, seems to be going in a very promising direction. I feel the setting itself isn’t necessarily bad per say, just needing maybe an extra bit of flair to separate it from so many other superhero settings. Not so much the author’s fault though, it is hard to stand out with so many superhero stories these days.

All in all, I think the best way to describe this story is vanilla: it’s not bad really, but it’s a flavor we’ve tasted time and time again. A pleasant one, but lacking some uniqueness.

That being said, I think the mundane angle works really well when it’s used, and the story can only grow from here.

Final score: 3.5/5

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THE LEGION OF NOTHING

An Old Favorite

By Malacai, member

May 2, 2016: I’ve been reading this web serial for a few years now. It was the first, or close to the first, story of this format that I’ve read, and it’s still really entertaining. I’ve even gone and reread it a couple times, and it continues to intrigue.

Style: The story is written in 1st person, which works mostly because the main character is analytical yet spacy. He does go into detail about people’s powers, some wondering, but a lot of stuff that is really nuanced, like emotions and descriptions, he describes them succinctly and matter-of-factly. He does seem to have a slight problem empathizing, but it doesn’t seem to be debilitating. And he doesn’t seem inhuman, just slightly detached.

Story: We’re following the lives of the grandchildren of some WWII superheroes. Thus, we go into having to deal with old villains, creating an identity with respect to their predecessors’, as well as typical teenage stuff of figuring out what they want to do. There’s lots of action, but also fiddly stuff about the structure of a team and how to decide what to do without depending on just heroic instincts. There’s lots of fun, and lots of serious parts without much death or gore. When there is death, it is dealt with seriously and not really dramatized or downplayed.

Grammar: Not much to say here, other than the author doesn’t have many grammar errors, and responds to reader comments on them.

Characters: The characters are very well developed, even if that isn’t that obvious at the beginning. The main character’s lack of introspection and awkwardness in social interactions leads to a slightly slanted view of others, but everyone’s motivations, goals, and personalities shine through their actions and words. Also, they remain consistent, even where they grind against others’.

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