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WIP Summus Proelium by Cerulean - M - Original Fiction

Discussion in 'Other Fandoms Review Board' started by Murr, May 12, 2020.

  1. Murr

    Murr Squib

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    Title: Summus Proelium
    Author: Cerulean
    Rating: M
    Genre: Superhero, Urban Fantasy
    Pairing: None so far
    Fandom: Original Universe (spinoff of Heretical Edge)
    Chapters: 95
    Worlds ~300,000
    Updated: May 11, 2020
    Published: March 4, 2019
    Status: In-progress
    Link: https://ceruleanscrawling.wordpress.com/summus-proelium-table-of-contents/

    Given all the positive feedback coming in about Cerulean's webserial Heretical Edge, I figured it was time to put this superhero spinoff up for review.
    ---
    To sum it up, Summus Proelium is fun. Really fun.

    While I enjoy Heretical Edge a lot, and find it immensely creative and enjoyable, the extreme blowup of the world, lack of conciseness, and need to fit in an action scene every other chapter are from time to time grating. Summus Proelium has none of these problems. It's a straight-up superhero novel, and indulges in it.

    Summus Proelium is set in an alternate-universe Detroit, where mysterious orbs grant superpowers to ordinary people (usually in emotional distress), leading them to pursue careers as either superheroes (the Star-Touched, working with corporate conglomerates or the government) or supervillains (the Fell-Touched, working with various organized crime groups). Cerulean's protagonist is Cassidy Evans, daughter of the richest man in Detroit, who gains her paint-based powers the night she witnesses her brother and father murder two people. In the first couple arcs of the story, Cassidy finds herself entangled between playing nice to both sides of the Touched and trying to come to terms with her family's tainted wealth. The Fell-Touched are a highlight - the gangs are realistic and entertaining in their motives, and all come in varying shades of gray, some extremely close to light or dark, but never fully in a camp.

    As the story moves forward, we see Cassidy's alter ego, Paintball, gain renown in Detroit. Here the action scenes that seemed so awkwardly interspersed throughout Heretical Edge become natural and flowing, one heist leading to more information, one pissed-off bad guy connected with another, one friend in need one moment, another friend that's the enemy of the first friend the next! The world is tightly contained and controlled, in contrast to Heretical Edge, and while the Patreon snippets and interludes continue in this story, they're usually more relevant and actually contain major plot points. While they are similar in internal voice, Cassidy is a more comfortable narrator than Cerulean's Flick Chambers: she's less insecure, a little more restrained, and much less loud and extraverted than Flick. The overall impression of the writing in Summus Proelium is more improvisatory and whimsical yet more structured than Heretical Edge; this seems easier for Cerulean to write, or perhaps he's just gotten better. Cerulean's give-no-shits narrative style also fits better here than in an epic fantasy like Edge.

    It's a classic superhero story, but the superpowers are more on the creative side, more like Worm or Sanderson's Steelheart than Marvel or DC. Summus Proelium especially reminds me of Steelheart, albeit less apocalyptic, more mature, and overall more contained. As in any superhero story, the faces behind the masks are important, and Cerulean creates a smaller but much more interesting set of characters than the Crossroads Heretics in Edge. By the way, at this point it's not necessary to read Edge to enjoy/understand this serial - the crossover is minor, and there's one character from Edge mentioned in passing as an Easter egg.

    I'll close by adding a few minor details that might, but don't detract from a perfect rating, at least for me. I find Cerulean writes characters in archetypes, and a couple felt close (
    Cassidy=Flick, Amber=Sands, Wren=Tabbris, Carousel=Scout
    ) but in all cases I felt the Proelium characters were stronger than their counterparts in Edge. Cerulean has clearly made a point that he wants to write well-done LGBT characters and relationships, but here it feels MUCH less contrived and less present than in Edge. Lastly, in the very first arc we learn that
    two of Cassidy's classmates are actually superheroes, but this hasn't been revealed to Cassidy as of arc 11
    , which seems unnecessarily long, but that's the most minor complaint I could possibly come up with.

    As I said before, 5/5 and highly recommended. I haven't read past the first two arcs of Worm, but this is just as good technically and in a less dark vein.
     
    Last edited: May 12, 2020
  2. Nerox

    Nerox Professor

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  3. Dye

    Dye Second Year DLP Supporter

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    I don't normally bother writing reviews but it's late, I can't sleep and I feel like I should justify the 2/5 I gave this thing.

    I gotta disagree with this being called "just as good technically" as Worm. Straight up, this doesn't come close and I don't even think worm was all that good in the first place.

    We're told nothing of the layout of the environments the character enters, we're just left with imagining the world as a featureless box in which architecture will only appear as and when the character needs to interact with it. If the character is running from some bad guys we're just suddenly told there's a fire escape for them to climb up moments before they begin to climb it. There's no way for you to place the character in the world, no way for you to try to predict how the character will escape and it makes the escape cheap and takes tension out of the scene.

    Beyond not being told the layout, we get no description of the environment in general. If a character enters a room we're told "It was messy" or "The walls were peeling". Early on the character goes to a warehouse to practice with their powers and the warehouse is described like this:

    Mostly it was a huge empty room, with random junk everywhere. Taking up about a quarter of the enormous space, opposite the door where I had come in, was where the contractors had done most of the work while they were active. It was an indoor skate park. Or part of one. They had a couple concrete ramps set up, a half pipe, a couple quarter pipes, and a large bowl right in the middle.

    This is on the lengthy side for environmental descriptions and stuff like this just makes the world boring, one place blends in to the next because there's nothing to differentiate them except for a vague list of the shit within each room. Maybe I just prefer overly flowery prose but, nah fam, this just doesn't do it for me. As for how actions are described its just the same sort of shit. You get nothing beyond "I walked into the room", "I checked my messages", "I punched them".

    Dialogue doesn't feel real and the character cycles between (bad) quips, stuttering and talking like a robot. The quips seem more like the sort of thing you find on reddit over at /rareinsults and /murderedbywords which is to say they're not funny, they're not smart and they're kinda cringe.

    Here's an example from when the character is getting bullied at school because they're short and had no tits (the character talks about this more than once) so they looked like a boy when they were 13 or something?

    “Aww, look at this,” Paige announced to a couple of the random cronies who liked to follow her around looking for scraps, “a little boy wandered into school and got lost.” She adopted a tone like she was talking to a child then, leaning in with wide, expressive eyes. “Hiya, little buddy. Are you sure you shouldn’t be with the rest of the seventh grade in the other school? This…” She made an exaggerated encompassing motion with her finger. “… is the big people library.”

    I counted to three before responding, but it didn’t help. Maybe I should’ve counted longer. Or not engaged at all. Instead, I plastered a fake smile to my face and turned to look at the taller girl. “Wow! Library! That’s a big word, Paige!” My voice dropped, turning dark. “Can you spell it?”

    The glare that she shot right back at me was almost chilling. “Sure,” the girl all-but snarled. “Library. It starts with L. As in…” She reached out to poke me firmly in the forehead. “Loser.”

    Damn, sicks burns right? And then the character punches them because this is all so hurtful and makes them so angry. Why can't the character's just call each other cunts or something. At least you could tell they disliked each other. These just reads like banter between two socially awkward kids. And these quips are constantly appearing in the action scenes so what little tension there is in the action scenes (next to none) is completely removed when this happens. Also, why do bullies in worm fanfiction (which this is) always have "minions" or "cronies". Its such a fucking cliche.

    This thing reads like a rip off of worm which is to be expected since the author wrote fanfiction for worm and it hits all the annoying cliches of worm fanfiction. You get the trigger event scene, the power testing scene, the suit buying scene and a bunch more. If you like worm fanfiction you might like this. If you think worm fanfiction is, on the whole, pretty shit give this a miss.

    2/5 just because at least the characters aren't having random orgasms every time they win a fight like they do in Heretical Edge.
     
    Last edited: May 15, 2020