A bunch of exiles run across a man passed out in the desert. They take him back to their camp and treat him. The man has a telltale tattoo on his face that marks him as a murderer, but only the leader seems to know its significance. They need a worker and he needs not to be found by the people he’s running from, so he joins the camp. The renegade and the leader of the camp clash, but they need each other so they find a way to work through their differences.
The premise of this story has potential, but the execution within the confines of these 40 pages fails to deliver. It’s possible that if there was an increase in pages to be filled, it may have turned out better, but I doubt it.
The narration and inner monologue of the main character, Mark Koch, is good for the most part; it has a consistent voice and reflective tone, but it sometimes seems out of sync with the story. Additionally, it does not fit the character. Mark seems like a guy who is serious about business (his crew makes weapons), but couldn’t care less about much else, so the pensive nature of the narration stands in stark contrast to the selfish nature of the character in play and he doesn’t come off as someone who could be a “deep” person in disguise.
Then there’s Stefan Drahos, he’s what the cat dragged in. He’s cocky, but not in a way that he can become a character that you love to hate or like despite his bad behavior. He needs to stay hidden and he doesn’t have any other place to go, yet he physically assaults and sexually harrasses Mark, his boss, after his first day of work. He goes to apologize to him the next day, leaves, comes back later, busts into Marks cabin, disarms him when Mark pulls his gun, bounds him, sexually assaults him, argues that he’s giving him a blowjob because he needs his job, and then insults Mark by telling him that he talks too much, and thus he gags him.
Mark runs The Colony, the camp where the story takes place. The story doesn’t give you a feel for how many people there are, but you get a vague impression that it’s quite the operation. So, I wonder, how does such a guy let being assaulted by some barely-tested newcomer pass? Then, he’s happy about the blowjob and it put him in such a good that manufacturing productivity doubled. Later Stefan comes to “explain” the blowjob and assault and the very short conversation ends with Mark all for whatever sexual encounter could be on the horizon and inviting Stefan to come to his cabin that night.
Stefan comes, they start making out as soon as the door closes, Stefan says he wants to be inside Mark, but Mark assumed the opposite, though he was alright with being on the receiving end. The have sex and then, post-coitus, they talk about how they came to be the people they were. The End.
I sat for a very long time trying to start this review on a neutral or positive note. Everything that initially came to my mind was negative and far from constructive. I didn’t want to bash this effort, but I was having a hard time tempering my impressions of it and reigning in my emotional responses to it. I finally worked it out into what is written above: an abridged version of the story with some basic observations. But now I want to write without restriction.
There was a lot of “are you serious” laughing and eye-rolling while I read Outwards. The main characters have no chemistry and the dialogue just promotes bad acting. None of their actions/interactions make sense and they all seem forced or like mad libs. Especially the “romantic” moments. There was a point where Mark blushed and I gagged–it was really out of character and just very weird, very weird. On the positive side, Wendigo has a way with faces–beautiful, expressive, and expertly done. However, the serial work still needs some polishing, but that will come with time and practice. I suppose the same could be said for his storytelling as well, though just polishing is not going to be enough.
I know I let plenty of low scoring titles pass without comment, but I felt pretty strongly about this because this is a Yaoi Revolution release. Since their advertised mission is to revolutionize Western contributions to BL and bring fresh perspectives and good stories to the masses, I intend to hold them to it. They are just over a year old (congrats on that), so there will definitely be some kinks that still need to be worked out, but novice status aside, they read this story and felt that it represented their mission and was ready for print. I don’t understand how. Yes, the setting is not your common BL fare and both leads have distinctly masculine appearances, but it stops there. There is no story.
As I said, the premise has potential. Also, I don’t think it’s a total waste, but I do believe that the concept needed more time in draft or a straight-shooting editor to point out the glaring lack of substance. The third possibility is that Wendigo could have presented the rough concept to a seasoned writer and they could have shaped it into a solid piece of wasteland fiction. And in the meantime he could continue improving under their guidance.
Now, as is, the story can’t be fixed and is a poor foundation to build on for a continuation, one that is already in progress. Nothing that comes after this is going to be believable unless the focus switches to another relationship in the Outwards universe, but I doubt that’s going to happen.