It has been said many times that the cover of a comic book is the most important. It’s what gets the reader to pick up the book and give it a chance. Villainous is definitely a great example of that being true.
Jef Sadinski’s pencils bring a fun cartoonish flair to the book, which is much needed given the heavy subject material throughout the story. There are parts where the art doesn’t seem complete, or polished, but those moments are few and far between.
Joana LaFuente does a fantastic job of enhancing the pages with great coloring. Somber moments don’t pop off the page the way that the actionable moments do. Even the way certain characters seem to shine while others appropriately seem to be living shadows who lighten up when their true character is revealed is a really nice touch.
Justin Birch’s lettering work cannot be ignored. It’s the hallmark of a good letterer when you don’t notice the words, exactly. Birch’s lettering makes reading the trade a treat and never once did I stop to re-read a word out of necessity.
The script by Stonie Williams is fast and moves you quickly through the story. However, it does suffer from a few pacing issues and some plot holes that left me questioning certain characters’ motivations. For a book that establishes a new setting, story, and level of stakes, it certainly feels very much lived-in as you read. I was only halfway through the first issue and felt like I had been spending a lot of time in the world of the Coalition of Heroes as they battled the Shadow Order.
The script recovers as it serves up a fairly interesting world that has quite the history and a fresh new protagonist.
Rep-Tilly (cleverly named) grows up idolizing the Coalition of Heroes only to end up as the victim of attempted murder, once she learns too much while interning as a sidekick at the CoH. She quickly discovers that her idols are all too eager to engage in some wet work assassinations that will destabilize world governments. If you’re not the type of hero to get on board with wholesale killing, well then you might find yourself branded a supervillain terrorist member of the ominously named Shadow Order.
It’s a group led by a strong female with cool powers, and it turns out they aren’t that bad after all. They just couldn’t bring themselves to kill for the CoH, and ended up on the wrong end of the media coverage. Apparently, the CoH has a great PR team and owns the media.
As far as another deconstruction of the classic superhero team, there isn’t anything new here. The powerhouse Superman pastiche is very one-dimensional and lacks any type of character motivation besides “I like hotties and money.” Written as the epitome of the “Dude Bro”, he fails to do much besides fumble his way through the plot in search of ways to prove himself even with the shallowest of motivation to want to kill.
There is nothing in this book that you couldn’t get a better version of from The Boys or even Wanted, but that isn’t to say the book isn’t enjoyable. In fact, it’s quite the opposite.
This book is a whole lot of fun because it isn’t really about the heroes. The title says it all. Villainous is about watching what it means to be the villain in this world and making the hard decisions to the right thing. No matter what you want the world to see you as.
Rep-Tilly experienced major growth as a character. At times her shifts feel a little forced, but then again, there is a lot going on in this book for her to process in a quick period of time.
I truly enjoyed the outside perspectives of the police who try to follow and clean up the aftermath of the super-powered skirmishes. They look like Morgan Freeman and Brad Pitt in Se7en, and I was completely entertained by that.
Combining a fresh, lovable new character with an inversion of the Superhero Deconstruction Trope, Mad Cave Studios delivers a fun, if a little dizzying, take on heroes versus villains. With perspectives explored from all sides, including the normal everyday citizens who do their best to carry on, the world of Villainous feels real and relatable. If there is an area where the script slouches, the art and color of this book lift you to the next page to continue the walloping entertainment without missing a beat. Pickup Villainous if you love superheroes, but find yourself always rooting for the bad girl.
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