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Why I don't read this comic anymore
I disliked the ending of Mass Effect 3. Giving my precise opinion of it would take an entire separate review, but to put it briefly, it was confusing, railroaded, and lacked adequate foreshadowing. Like many other people, I found myself drawn to various alternate-ending Fix Fics, most notably "koobismo"'s webcomic Marauder Shields.

Over the course of the year, however, I gradually found myself growing more and more discontented with Marauder Shields even as the praise for it grew more and more extravagant. As of today, I've effectively abandoned reading it altogether. I'm not trying to make anyone else do the same, but given the existence of all that praise, I felt that I ought to explain just what it was that I found so problematic about Marauder Shields that it drove me to the rare decision to completely give up on a series I once enjoyed.

The Good

It would be remiss of me to explain why I stopped reading Marauder Shields without explaining why I started reading it in the first place, and make no mistake: there are a lot of reasons to like this comic. Marauder Shields is much, much better written then the average fanfic (especially the average Fix Fic). The storyline is well-constructed and paced, and the Codex entries at the end of most strips add a lot - to someone like me with an interest in setting and backstory, they might even be the best part. The art is generally fantastic and in keeping with the style of the parent series - I'd say it looks much more like Mass Effect than any of the official comics ever did. The author, "koobismo", has also shown a willingness to listen to criticism that is somewhat rare both in the fanfiction community as a whole and among authors who are as wildly praised as he is. The comic, in short, is a very "classy" production.

The Bad

However, all of the creative talent behind Marauder Shields - at least as far as I'm concerned - is ultimately unable to overcome its major problem: the premise. By that, I refer to two things. One is the nature and backstory of the title character. It's entertainingly done and has a fair bit of justification done, but ultimately there is nothing that can convince me that Nihlus-Kryik-as-sapient-turian-husk is a plausible plot twist in a series that claims
to be "100% compatible with Mass Effect canon". It's all the more aggravating because of how unnecessary it is: while the Nihlus segments and backstory are fun to read, ultimately the same basic purpose could have been served with far less damage to my suspension of disbelief by simply having the inciting incident be Shepard being shot by a generic Marauder. In some ways, it seems like all of the Nihlus backstory and monologues are just an after-the-fact attempt to justify a carryover from the comic's origins as a series of gag strips based off of a Memetic Mutation.

However, the bigger problem with Marauder Shields isn't any single plot point - it's the aforementioned claim to be "100% compatible with Mass Effect canon". As noted above, I disliked the original ending of Mass Effect 3 in part because of how it came out of nowhere. Marauder Shields may do away with that particular plot point, but only to replace it with many non-foreshadowed plot twists. Your original mentor who died ten minutes into the first game is still "alive" as a sapient husk working against the Reapers! The superweapon you've spent the entire game building is a Reaper trap! Cerberus has some kind of elaborate plan involving a thorian (another plot point not seen or heard of since the first game) clone buried underneath London! You are indoctrinated! If all of these points were introduced in the original game the way they've been in Marauder Shields - at the last minute with no real buildup - I fully expect plenty of fans would cry foul. They haven't in Marauder Shields, because that's a basic premise of fanfiction: you can't criticize twists for having no foreshadowing in the original work when they weren't invented by that original work to begin with. But the problem with Marauder Shields is that it doesn't want to be fanfiction - it wants to be a full-blown alternate ending of the game, so that you will eventually be able to turn off Mass Effect 3 at the point of divergence and read the comic from there. And as such, its last-minute revisionism goes from Fix Fic to Shocking Swerve.

And so, ultimately, I feel Marauder Shields has become a victim of its own success. At the beginning, when it was just another way to try and mend some of the depression caused by the original ending, I could let things like Nihlus-as-marauder or the use of the "indoctrination theory" pass - it was just a fanfic, after all. But now, with a devoted fanbase willing to call it "their Mass Effect", quality effort put into doing audio adaptations and original music, and praise from Bioware itself, Marauder Shields is no longer claiming to be "just a fanfic", and that means I can't really overlook the problems at its core anymore. There's a lot of talent behind the comic, and I hope to eventually see some original work from "koobismo" that lets him use it without being dragged down by an inherently unworkable premise. But Marauder Shields itself is something I can't enjoy anymore.
comment #17775 nrjxll 19th Jan 13
As a reader that really like Marauder Shields, I recognize that you raise a lot of legitimate criticism about the series. However, one must remember that it is still just a fan fic, and a fix fic at that. Meaning that it had the opinion of either completely abandoning the existing lore, or try your best to work within it's limitations. And in that case, I think it did the job better then 99% of existing fix fic for ME 3's ending.

Think of Marauder Shields as a repair store, no matter how skilled the craftsman is at his work, there is a limitation on what a repairman can do. At the end, it is still a broken products that is being repaired instead of a new one. The best you can hope for is one that is almost good as new. If you went in expecting a complete new product then you will be disappointed by all the flaws. But if you just went to have your things fixed so that it works again, you will be getting above and and beyond your expectations.
comment #17825 chankljp 23rd Jan 13
I haven't seen anyone at Bioware say anything good about Marauder Shields. I truly doubt that anyone there has any love for a webcomic based on bashing their work and pretending it's better than theirs.
comment #17827 Eilbert 24th Jan 13
@Eilbert I learned about the series from a Bio Ware tweet about it.

The series is incredible and I absolutely disagree about the comment that it should not have Nihlus Kryik be the Marauder that shoots Shepard. The incredible feat this story achieves comes from the fact how it is self-aware and proceeds with the story on several levels - I guess some people just not get that. It would not have any sense if it would be a random mook.
comment #17855 NumNumRaffikey 26th Jan 13
@chankljp: The problem is that Marauder Shields wants to be treated as more than "just a fan fic" - and even if it didn't, the general quality is high enough that I wouldn't approach it that way anyway. One might almost say that it's too well-done for its own good. In a more typical Fix Fic, I'd have a much easier time overlooking the places where it doesn't fit in.

Also, I'm not sure I buy the "repair store" argument. There's only so much you can do with an after-the-fact repair job, but it's possible to acknowledge that and work within its limits. Marauder Shields doesn't have to introduce all the plot twists it does - for instance, while it's nice to be given some kind of plan behind the apparent generic villainy that Cerberus was up to, it's completely unnecessary within the context of a fix for the ending. So I think that this kind of thing is still a valid complaint.

@NumNumRaffikey: We'll have to agree to disagree on that. As far as I'm concerned, nothing that's been done with Nihlus in the comic compensates for the sheer degree of damage to my suspension of disbelief that using him created.
comment #17856 nrjxll 26th Jan 13
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