With the exception of 4.5 and 4.6, the encounter with Über and Leet, this entire Arc was superb.
It started strong in 4.1 with Taylor laying waste to Emma, before transitioning to the Market subarc – 4.1 through 4.4. This brought Lisa trying to help Taylor against the Harpies in 4.2, Taylor’s trigger event and interesting information about trigger events in general in 4.3, and a fantastic look into Brian’s backstory and what drives him in 4.4.
And then came the abrupt realization that something was wrong. The attempt to fool the reader into thinking Rachel had betrayed the Undersiders didn’t last long before the “true” culprits revealed themselves to be… Über and Leet, two of the most ineffective villains we’ve been told about. As a result, the encounter with the two of them, while somewhat entertaining through character personalities, held little to no tension at all – the only tension I found was in wondering whether they had something up their sleeve that would bring tension.
Ultimately, the entire encounter with Über and Leet feels kind of pointless in retrospect. What did it really accomplish, narratively, other than get Bakuda to dress like Bomberman?
But once Bakuda was on the scene, boy did the tension rise (even though she was wearing that). Suddenly the Undersiders were increasingly fucked for each cliffhanger I hit, and I found myself clueless as to how they could escape. It’s been a while since I’ve seen tension and cliffhangers as good as in 4.7-4.10. In the middle of that was 4.8, an amazing chapter that established Bakuda’s character excellently and contained the first onscreen death in the story. RIP Park Jihoo.
And then, of course, there’s the chapter I just finished, which was a fantastic denouement to the Arc, happy and calm but also setting up future developments.
Oh, and it looks like I’ve skipped something here – right between the battle against Über and Leet and the Bakuda portion of the Arc, we got a surprise Interlude! Interlude 3½ introduced us to Kayden/Purity, a very interesting character toeing the line between hero and Neo-Nazi, and Max/Kaiser, a disgusting piece of shit who I spent much of the Interlude saying “fuck you” to. Cool armor, though.
The placement of Interlude 3½ seemed odd at first, but if it was to be in the middle of the Arc anyway, it couldn’t have been in a better position. 4.6 had just pulled a “surprise, the ABB are involved in this Arc” and Bakuda had made her claim that she was in charge of the ABB now, making Interlude 3½ an excellent opportunity to look at how they had developed since Lung was arrested. And if the Interlude had been placed any later, it would’ve interrupted the action of the Bakuda part of the Arc, extending cliffhangers much more tense than “oh shit Bakuda’s here, time to fight”.
All in all, this is easily the best Arc we’ve had yet. I’ve enjoyed it massively. Undersider bonding, awesome action, interesting new characters, Brian/Taylor shipping fuel to the point where Tattle calls them out on it in 4.4, the name Fugly Bob’s… simply amazing.
Incidentally, you may have noticed that I speculated a lot more on the title of the Arc this time around. I think that’s because the title was a much more common and concrete word than Gestation, Insinuation and Agitation were. I liked that – it was fun to be able to speculate properly on it.
Ultimately, I think Shell means several things. It refers to bombshells, yes, but it also refers to the efforts early on to help Taylor out of her shell.
Finally: What’s next? Well, Bakuda isn’t going to give up that easily, and now mr. Rottendick is on the loose and probably a bit p… pissed off. No pun intended. There’s also the way the city is being bombed relentlessly, and in particular, Bakuda attacking other gangs’ spots. These are things that could cause a lot of trouble in the future. Immediate future, though? No, I think Wildbow might hold onto some of the major direct consequences for a couple arcs, like he did with the defeat of Lung and Bakuda “dealing with the people responsible”.
So I’m not sure what’s coming up in the next Arc. But with the way Wildbow is going right now? It’s gonna be good.
(#man #this got long
#next time i might use section titles)