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CURVEBALL

For comic book fans who don’t like pictures

By MaddiroseX, author of Twisted Cogs

Mar 21, 2016: I mentioned in a recent review that the superhero genre is glutted right now, especially in the serial world. Given that glut, one might be reluctant to give yet another superhero serial a try, but I hasten to reassure potential readers, this isn’t a superhero story, despite the superpowers present in the serial.

Curveball is a comic book, plain and simple, one that happens to have no pictures. I was extremely skeptical after reading what the author was trying to do here, but I have to say he’s pulled it off brilliantly. Curveball encompasses all of the gritty action I would expect from a graphic novel, and for a textual work provides an incredible amount of “visual” beauty.

I love love love the way mood and atmosphere are set up in this serial. From the very first chapter the scenes are so beautifully outlined by the author’s prose, I doubt it could be more vivid were it an actual comic book. Other reviews mention that the first chapter didn’t work for them, but it absolutely hooked me in with its atmosphere and construction.

My gushing about the prose itself shouldn’t be taken to mean that I don’t care for other aspects of the writing; Curveball’s characters have a nice amount of depth, especially over time. Comic books’ habit of working very well in the long-term definitely comes into play. This is a work which builds over time, and each chapter that passes layers in more depth to the characters and settings.

All together Curveball’s understanding of atmosphere and ability to capture the comic-book vibe are enough to recommend it, with an interesting series of plots and intriguing characters being the cherry on top.

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CURVEBALL

First Fifteen Review

By zephy669, author of Cruise Control

Aug 4, 2015: Snapshot

Curveball is an action story set in a contemporary setting altered by superheroes. The story starts with the murder of America’s greatest hero, Liberty, who sent out an encrypted email to the man who had been his sidekick, Curveball. The story isn’t really about who murdered Liberty, but about what lies within that email, which the first fifteen installments doesn’t get into, but sets the stage for.

The first fifteen installments introduce the main character, Curveball (or CB), sets the stage for the story question, which is: what is in that encrypted email that Liberty sent for Curveball to figure out? It was around the end of the fifteen installments that the story really started to pick up.

For fans who like . . . 

Superhero stories and altered histories (because of the result of superhero powers being introduced to an otherwise contemporary setting). I’ll also throw in that the story is for fans of punk rock as the main character, CB, is portrayed as a punk rocker and there are references to his band tees.

What I Enjoyed

Curveball is written in third person present tense, which makes the action in the story seem more immediate and in your face. I think it works well for a superhero story even though this type of point-of-view narration is typically reserved for literary novels. This type of narration also fits the main character, Curveball, who is an in-your-face-punk-rock-bad-ass-superhero. It took a while to like CB, but by the end of the fifteen installments I wanted to learn more about him and his relationship with Liberty.

What I liked most about Curveball is the dialogue. It’s snappy and there’s some good banter thrown back and forth between characters. It’s clever and witty, and suits the superhero theme, which always tends to be heavy on banter. The dialogue is how this story and its characters come alive.

I found that by the end of the fifteen installments the story really started to pick up and become interesting. At about issue 3 the story became grounded and promises on plot and characters were made that kept me invested in the story. It would’ve been nice to get that earlier in the tale (like in issue 1), but if you are willing to stick it out, there’s a good story here to discover.

What Put Me Off

The first chapter didn’t hook me. I didn’t know what was going on or why it was so important. The opening chapter is an action scene that results in an assassination on Liberty as he tries to send his encrypted email out to CB. The reason it didn’t hook me is because any opening that is an action scene without some kind of character investment (in terms of wants and desires or sufferings and tribulations) doesn’t really give us a reason to care. There was never a reason why I should care at all about Alex’s assassination. As far as I was concerned, it was just some highly trained military dude trying to keep himself alive and failing at that attempt. Also, the content of the email and who Alex sends the email to is not explained. I don’t see why we couldn’t know the content of the email or who it was being sent to and the fact that it was kept from me deliberately and on purpose made me feel cheated, especially since the opening chapter is told through an omniscient narrator who, by all definitions of an omniscient narrator, knows what the email is about. Even if the chapter was told through Alex’s point of view, the reader would still be privy to the content of the email (I mean, Alex is, right?). Unfortunately, the story is so focused on this big reveal with whatever the content of the email is about that expectations are set so high that I’m sure that once we do find out the reveal it won’t be able to live up to the hype. That’s the terrible thing about big reveals: writers think you need them but readers hate them, especially, like with the opening chapter, it’s obviously not told to the reader on purpose. What if we did know the content of the email and who it was sent to? I feel like that would create a lot more intrigue and tension for the reader. It’s having the reader in the know of this secret and watching it unfold with the characters who don’t know the big secret. That’s more exciting that just withholding information from the reader, which is just frustrating. Watching the secrets come undone between the characters and how it will affect the characters is way more interesting.

Another thing that threw me off is that some scenes seemed unrealistic, even for a superhero story. In part two of issue one there’s a scene when CB goes to the bank which becomes the stage for a robbery. The reason this scene is so unrealistic is because when the bank robbers all come with guns and hold everyone hostage, CB just stands there nonchalant and lights up a cigarette. Okay, that’s fine; he is a superhero after all. But then, when he lights a cigarette, the bank manager actually gets up and tells him that there’s no smoking allowed in the building in the middle of the bank robbery. Really? The bank manager practically has a gun to his head and he’s worried about CB smoking a cigarette? That would never happen, not even within the realm of a superhero story. It was used as a gag, but not a very successful one. I also didn’t like how calm and collected CB was. He’s making fun of the bank robbers’ boss and the boss just banters back with him. Really? If I was a villain, I’d just shoot this smart mouth and be done with it. Even in a superhero story, which is fantastical, you still need to have your characters have real reactions, unless there’s a specific reason why the villain had that reaction (which is not explained).

The description of Faraday, when we are introduced to it, is bogged down by telling details and go on for several paragraphs. Why not show us by having CB interact with his environment? There was too much detail that I, as the reader, wasn’t able to retain all of it. What I got from the telling paragraphs was that Faraday is crime-filled and crime-run. Great, but I’d rather be shown that than being told that. Eventually, the chapter does end up showing the crime-filled, crime-run setting from a dead body (presumably murdered), though I felt like it could’ve been better structured.

The main reason that Curveball put me off was that it flounders about trying to decide what it’s about. Three chapters in and I’m not sure what the main problem is or what CB’s desires and wants are (in fact, CB’s character is never really developed in the first fifteen chapters—things seem to happen to him, but we don’t really get a sense of what he wants, why he wants it, what he wanted before the events of the key event). In the first three chapters we have an assassination, a bank robbery, and floating corpses, none of them seemingly related to each other. Can we pick something and stick with it? The assassination is in fact what the story is about, and the scene with the bank robbery or floating corpses have no relation to the assassination and could literally be cut from the story and have no repercussions on the main plot or characters. Those two chapters introduce new elements that we don’t need because that’s not what the story is about. So why give us more? As I’m reading through the story my brain kept going back to the floating corpses and the bank robbery and wondering what was the point of it all.

We never really get into a deep point of view of the characters. We are never fully immersed in the story. Instead, we are always spectators. It’s always, CB decided this, or CB realized this, or CB thought this. If we’re in CB’s head as the POV character, than we don’t need decided or realized or thought because we’re in his head, just write what it is he decides, realizes, or thinks, and hopefully in showy details (though sometimes telling works fine, especially when it comes to desires and needs and wants and fears). There’s also a lot of prepositions, such as “voice is tight with excitement”. If you’ve done your job as a writer and have built the context properly, then you don’t need “with excitement” at the end of that sentence. The reader should know by the context of the scene. Lastly, there’s some awkward phrasing here and there, such as, “Julie stops the car and unrolls the window.” Unrolls the window puts a very different image in my mind when what I think Christopher Wright wants to say is, Julie stops the car and rolls down the window.

Lastly, the story needs work on hooks for each chapter. For example, in issue 2 when CB arrives in New York City, there’s a very long description of his arrival that just doesn’t work as a hook. Later in that same chapter there’s a scene where he bumps into someone he knows and that is really when the chapter starts and hooked me.

On the Website

Curveball is on a website home to podcasts, comics, and other serials. It’s an easy site to navigate through and there’s lot of goodies on there to discover and explore. The length of each chapter in Curveball is ideal.

Should You Read It?

If you like superhero stories, then I would say to read this story. I wasn’t as much of a fan of this story in its first fifteen installments, though I will say that it does pick up near the end of those fifteen installments. I think there’s something here, I just wished we’d get to it much sooner and had stronger characters that I can invest in and care about.

(This review is part of the First Fifteen series. To learn more about the review series and how you can get your web serial or indie novel reviewed, please see the main website at: http://cruisecontrolserial.com/the-first-fifteen/)

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CURVEBALL

Wow, this is freaking awesome!

By alex5927, author of Umbra: Unsanctimonious

Jul 26, 2014: This review is based off of the first twelve issues. I’ll admit, when I started Curveball, expectations were a bit low. I never was one for books whose titles could be construed as comedic even though they aren’t supposed to be (I’m kinda superficial). However, I was pleasantly surprised by how good it is. It reminded me of Watchmen a little bit, but not enough for me to call it a Hunger Games/Battle Royale situation. Talking about the plot without giving any spoilers is going to be difficult, so I’ll say this: CB’s ex-partner is murdered, and he wants to find who did it, even though what he should be worried about is the big-picture-type thing going on in the background. Describing it like that is about as good as I can do, and while it sounds hardcore cheesy, Christopher Wright manages to pull it off in a way that most people probably couldn’t. While the plot was good, it wasn’t the best part. The characters are extremely well done, each with an extremely defined personality, to a point where I would say that Wright is better at character development than some of the most popular authors, and he does it while still progressing the plot, unlike some of the most popular authors of the 20th and 21st centuries (looking at you Stephen King). Seriously, these characters are great. Really, the only problems I saw were a few mistakes in the grammar, which isn’t even a problem. Seriously, if the author leaves out a letter, not only was it probably an accident, but is it really that difficult to just figure out what they are saying on your own? He does this for free, that should be enough for you people. Anyway. Basically, this is good. It’s well written, with a good plot and great characters, and while I didn’t get into it, the setting and world-building were pretty amazing, too. You should read it. Unless you have some serious problem with superheroes, in which case, why are you even reading this? Seriously, if you are that prejudiced against superheroes, go away. This serial/web page doesn’t want you. (Just kidding, as long as you don’t spam people)

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