This book is one of those few which catch me in a grip in the beginning and just force me to flip through the story, trying to unravel the mysteries and know the truth behind. It is, unfortunately, also another book which left me disappointed in its choice to sparingly use obscenities in its story. How employing such useless words in a book could make it into a better story is just beyond me.
The subterranean held the imaginations of mankind, wonderful kinds like Journey into the Center of the Earth and horrors like Dante’s Inferno, for eons. So when the surface world was rendered uninhabitable by humans, they went down to eke out an existence. Such a world has an interesting twist to it – the world is only uninhabitable by human, but life goes on for animals and plants. This mirrors the biblical flood except it deals a punishment to mankind much more efficiently than a deluge, the latter of which wiped out innocent animals as well.
The Underlighters created a most intriguing and creative society – a liberal future where genders interaction is not bound by current conservative thoughts. I was confused in the beginning of the story when I tried to plot the relationships between characters, and when I read their names, I thought I had mistaken a boy for a girl and vice versa.
In The Underlighters, gay marriages are usual and there is also the possibility where three persons enter a marriage where all have a relationship with each other. OK, this gets weird here: this is not a love triangle. Due to the fact that a person can be bisexual, imagine all three of them being so. This creates a situation where all three of them really could love each other. Interesting thought…
There is also a third gender creation in this world – the Between. Essentially this gender is neither male nor female, yet it incorporated both. Brown even created gender pronouns for this androgynous and thought provoking situation – xe, xis, xer. Interesting as it is, I am not sure everybody could accept all the above in our reality.
Liberal as such situations may be, it does create complications to a society, especially so when it comes to a world where population does not suffice to fulfill tasks. With the human population decimated by Dust, liberal marriages do not create offspring, thus jeopardizing a society where the numbers dwindled and could not increase. Brown remedied this situation by suggesting regulations in the story through conversational hints to make sure the population can be maintained but I sincerely doubted such a change could happen.
The storyline of The Underlighters is rather straightforward, with almost nonexistent twists, although the story redeemed itself with an interesting ending. Reading towards the first quarter of the story does leave me perplexed as to what is the targeted audience of this novel. From the age of the protagonist and the hormonal outbursts in the story, not to mention all those complicated relationships, the story has the young adults in mind. However the amount of curse words and vivid description of sex, it somehow seemed to be more of an adult theme.
To portray the story in the format of a journal has a few advantages to the storytelling. For one, steamy erotic side of a personal life granted a voyeuristic feel to the story. It makes more sense to tell love stories and relationship gossips in a personal diary than it is in a story where horrors are happening although it still gets a little out of hand when they are too vividly described. This storytelling method also gets the upper hand with emotional bursts that are deeply personal. Brown no doubt made good use of this format to tell the story of The Underlighters, except for one contradiction – conversations.
And I barely noticed this discrepancy until I almost finished the novel. It just makes no sense that I would write a full conversation down in my own diary. I know, because I used to keep one myself. I would record my deepest and most personal emotions which I would not show to the world, but definitely won’t bother with writing what I conversed with other people. It is no big deal though as conversations formed part and parcel of all stories. Without it, the novel would just appear weird.
Another barely noticeable contradiction to the journal format is the fights themselves. Once again I do not believe that I will recreate the whole fight in my own diary, but it may be more suitable if Brown tries to describe the fights in Janelle “feeling the aftereffects of a slice to the abdomen by the rather huge whatever-monster”. This was how the story started, without laying out the whole fight with a dragon, but enough to leave readers speculate and let their imagination fill in the gap.
I believe that the story is more suitable to be portrayed as a first person narrative. The journal format is just too incompatible with the way the story would be told, but this does not hinder me from praising the story for its originality. I would appreciate that fewer obscenities be used because I read a book for its storytelling through masterful utilization of a language, not for the curse words. There just isn’t any advantage to a story by using curse words. It only dims it in my view. (less)
Being in love with Lovegrove’s novel, especially his Pantheon series, could be addictive. Even so, I was rather surprised to find that this latest story following the same pattern to be so disappointing. Although his style of military action never cease to run out of steam throughout the course of the novel, the novelty behind the idea seemed to have dwindled, leaving behind just a husk of a story which tried to continue the legacy of a bestselling series.
Lovegrove, in his journey of crafting the Pantheon series, is commendable in bringing us this relatively misunderstood religion into his folds and crafted a story with Voodoo as his basis. This shows that he is serious with his series, researching into this myth and religion and sharing it with the reader by weaving a tale. Within the timespan of flipping through half the book, I had already became enlightened in the Voodoo religion more than I did before I opened the book.
However unlike the other myths, he showed relatively little godly actions within this book.
Lovegrove could have done better by putting more grandiose involving more gods and showing how they impacted the modern world just as he did in the other novels of the same series. Albertine is the voodoo priestess in the story, providing explanations as well as voodoo magical support to the team. It would be expected that she make some great show of force, maybe a good voodoo priestess vs mad bokor in a showdown. At the very least she should be calling in the gods for their participation, providing us a front seat in a titanic battle.
The grandiose of the previous titles was lost in this novel, dampening my expectation. That, coupled with the very limited show of gods from the myth, as well as their lack of impact on the story, would have made me loath the Pantheon series if this was my first book. Fortunately for Lovegrove, I have known his work through lots of his other novels, and so I would still vouch for him as my favorite author, albeit this not being my favorite novel.(less)
Doctor Doom had been the antagonist of the Fantastic Four for as far back as I had read Marvel Comics. You wouldn’t get one without getting the other, and you wouldn’t get a good Fantastic Four story without exploring how the villain plotted against the family or how he was involved even though the situation didn’t involve Doom directly. As cruel as he gets, even Doom has a master. So who would be powerful enough to make even the evil doctor bow to and call him master?
This arc is one of my personal all time favorite in the Fantastic Four stories. With brilliantly and deceptively twisting plots which turns you around at the end of each comic book, “Master of Doom” offered hope only to grind it with the show of power by the Marquis of Death.
With each part of the arc revealing more twists than a pretzel has, it really is a captivating read. Once again, my disappointment comes in the form of how the arc ended. Although another surprise is shared in the end, it is not true any brilliant stroke that the Fantastic Four defeated Doom’s master, merely another “fist to the face” episode that sees the family beating the villain to a pulp. A stunning ending stroke by an unforeseen character helped saved my faith in Millar’s story, securing my undying loyalty to his other works.
After Straczynski's bout in Marvel ended with the death of May Parker in The Amazing Spiderman and another death of a member of Fantastic Four, he was signed up by DC Comics to work on the character of Superman. The character of Superman was quite intriguing, with his history seldom changing and the character had always been Kal-El/Clark Kent. Having said that, modern readers are becoming more serious, demanding stories with more depth to it, stories which provoke thought and invoke emotions.
To rewrite the story of Superman without veering too much away from what we knew about him took not only boldness but also skill. For that, Straczynski deserves credit for being able to craft a superbly memorable story despite its length as a graphic novel.
Davis' artworks worth mention as well, with the bold strokes in his art supporting the similarly bold strokes Straczynski is working with the story. The deeper tones made the graphics looked more mature than the bright colors Superman used to be adorned with. It also suited the mood of the story, telling readers that this story is darker and more mature, no longer the cheesy big guy shown in the past decades.(less)