Today I'm going to be doing something I don't do particularly often -- I will be reviewing a completed piece of fan-fiction, written by ComicVine writer @SpideyIvyDaredevilFan26. It's an Injustice-styled story in which the DC and Marvel universes are merged, and the calamity of their union creates an opportunity that it seized by many of the villains of those worlds.
The story is called the Gotham City 21.
This review does not contain spoilers. There is a "Spoiler Corner" at the end of the review, where I mention story aspects not fit for those who have not read the story in its entirety.
Anyway, let's dig in.
As I stated in the beginning, I don't often review fan-works in lengthy articles such as this one. This medium offers a new facet not seen in published literary works, something that alters the style of the story and should be addressed first and gotten out of the way.
This facet is....
Gotham City 21's grammar is, to put it bluntly, not perfect. Spelling and punctuation errors are littered throughout, though these are generally not heinous enough to largely distract from the story. Even for a Grammar Nazi such as myself (sieg heil!), these errors can be mentally overridden and seen past.
There is one severe offender, however, that does distract from the storyline at times, and that is the author's tendency to... forget... that separate characters' dialogue must always be separated into different paragraphs. This tends to switch up at random, as sometime lines of dialogue gets their own paragraphs as is proper. However, about an equal amount of the time, dialogue from more than one character will clog the same paragraph, making it seem clumsy -- it becomes challenging to differentiate the speakers.
So, no, the grammar isn't perfect, and the entire thing could probably use an overhaul by someone with a firmer grasp of punctuation. Still, the generally clean format of the story and short, fluid paragraphs make it a simple matter to read past.
This is both the story's greatest strength and, perhaps, it's greatest weakness. The story features a huge roster (the "Gotham City 21" is so named for the amount of characters on the team) and not every character is handled with equal finesse and empathy. Of this list, a few (perhaps half a dozen) stand out as strong members that drive the story, have vital subplots, and are well-characterized (Poison Ivy, Rorschach, Bane, Captain America, and a few others). Several more are side-characters, having dialogue that impacts events but doesn't drive it (Gorilla Grodd, Daredevil, Sinestro, Jason Todd, and more). Then you have Deadshot, Elektra, Beast Boy, Azrael, Agent Venom, Daniel Ketch, and several other characters who might as well just not be there at all. They have few-to-no lines, are not featured in combat scenes, say and do nothing that impacts anything in any noticeable way. I literally forgot that Deadshot was even there until one of the final chapters, while Flash Thompson is never spoken of again after his debut.
This stems from having a roster that was simply too large. This could have just as easily (more easily in fact) been shaved down, involving less forced focus on side-characters and allowing for greater flexibility and dynamics between the characters who were actually important. The Gotham City 13, for instance, would have likely been a far more efficient means of driving the story and making things seem realistic. Scarecrow's team of villains was small enough that a team of a dozen or so could have still contended while seeming like the underdogs. Instead, we receive a bloated roster that, at times, trips over itself with too many characters.
Still, the author did better than I expected with such a large roster, as several characters with focus come to the forefront early on and they do drive events. Rorschach is actually the prime example of this -- he's written well and true to his character, he has a major subplot, and he permanently alters the scope and shape of the story. Harley Quinn receives a similar treatment, though I did, personally, find her persistent focus on the Joker to be eventually tiresome.
This story's greatest strength. While the dialogue at times feels unnatural, the scenery and descriptions barely exist, and the pacing fluctuates between solid and somewhat awkward, there's one thing that remains consistent about this story as a whole -- the tension.
Rousing speeches play their part but don't outstay their welcome like some apocalyptic series (Exhibit A: Attack on Titan). The characters have to constantly struggle with and reassure themselves that what they're doing is the right thing, and are in clear conflict both with one another and with their true opposition. Tension is constantly amped up over the course of the story and, by the time the finale arrives, it feels like it's "ready." So it's already got that much over Battlestar Galactica.
The one downfall to this is the lack of downtime and the complete lack of humor. While the GC21 aren't always steeped in the middle of the action, and do sometimes just hang around the Batcave, their story always focuses on drama, romance, or conflict. There's no humor to lighten things, which is a necessary element in giving the reader a "breather" before getting back to the conflict of the plot. While it can be argued that Harley Quinn is present for comic relief, she is primarily handled as a tragic character, and on the rare occasion she is used for comedic purpose, she... well, isn't particularly funny.
Still, as I said in the beginning, the tension is solid, escalates at a good pace, and doesn't relent.
There's a fair bit of action in this, actually, enough to keep it rolling. The action is solid, and the author also does a decent job matching up characters that can actually battle one another, with a few exceptions. As an example, when a very high-powered character shows up, they aren't attacked by someone like Daredevil, but are dealt with by someone on their same paygrade. There are exceptions to this, such as when Bane defeated Sabretooth, but they are a minority in comparison to relatively well-handled action scenes.
The plot in this, while it isn't perfect, is complex enough and containing enough subplots to come off as fairly well-written. The ever-looming threat of Scarecrow and his team of villains is frequently glanced at to ensure the tension stays high, and their presence never fades from the memory of the reader. The shifting roster of characters is adequately handled as well, despite the title of "Gotham City 21" remaining for the most part steadfast despite that number not always being accurate.
There are a few holes, such as "Where is the Green Lantern Corps? Actually, where are all of the other Lantern Corps?" and "How is Scarecrow managing this thing when he's working with villains far better than him?" Perhaps the author wanted to give off a message about the power of fear, but if it was there, it wasn't really strong enough to come through.
My favorite part, I believe, is the team getting together, as the focus was based on smaller clumps of characters rather than a massive sprawl of the entire 21. It came off a bit better, and ironically, the fact that they were split apart made the overall scope of the storyline seem larger.
Something I do want to make mention of is the way this story utilizes female characters. Out of a gigantic roster featuring between 30 and 40 characters, the female characters (not even regarding the fact that a few of these characters are not strongly featured) amount to Poison Ivy, Harley Quinn, Typhoid Mary, Emma Frost, Elektra, Raven, and Wonder Woman -- seven characters out of a massive cast. That's not my only complaint, however.
While Elektra never actually impacts anything and Emma is in only a single scene (shaving that roster down to five), four out of that five are immediately "shipped" with a male character. And while I understand that romance is necessary, not all of it was, and considering the 30 or so independent males, is it truly too much to ask that we have any independent women?
Not sure how where I want to go with this point. I'm sure there were no ill intentions, but it does carry a few unfortunate implications.
The few deaths at the finale of the story seem a bit... forced. Eddie's, in particular, doesn't even happen during combat but in a completely random and gratuitous event that seemed designed specifically to make him die. His death is only briefly mentioned by the other characters, and the deaths of Sinestro and his Corpsmen (if they died? I'm not entirely sure) are not brought up at all.
The romantic pairing between Johnny and Raven seemed extremely rushed and served no purpose whatsoever to the story or anything else. It was just thrown in as a seemingly random 'ship.
How in the world was Dr. Doom -- Dr. freakin' Doom -- under Scarecrow's thumb? Even after he left, how was he in any way challenged by the Gotham City 21? The same, to a slightly lesser extent, applies to Lex Luthor, whose strongest feature is his habit of dominating villain teams.
Spider-Man's killing of Rorschach is glazed over far too quickly. Killing a human being, an unpowered human being at that, would absolutely destroy Peter Parker, yet it seems to quickly fade, replaced by him being supportive of Ivy.
What was Scarecrow's huge plan, the one so horrible that it scared off the other villains? Was it just that he turned into Scarebeast? Because that's just only so scary, considering that, just for one, Hank Henshaw could have easily quelled any threat Crane presented.
So, there we have it. Gotham City 21.
Was it a masterpiece? I can't say that it was. The author shows that he still has a lot to learn about many of the technical aspects of writing, handling characters, and knowing not to bite off more than he can chew. However, with a few instances of very solid dialogue, a plot that held itself up for the most part, and a strong ramp of tension, Gotham City 21 is a quick and enjoyable read that is, quite honestly, worth checking out.
This is Joygirl, signing out.