A new twist in the wide world of super heroes is a welcome sight, although this one takes a darker turn…
It can be tough to establish yourself as a new super hero, but fortunately, RepTilly has landed herself a sweet gig with the Coalition of Heroes in its Sidekick program. She’ll learn the ropes from the best heroes in the business. This is a great opportunity…until it isn’t. There’s something shady about this place and that might just be enough to turn her to the dark side.
Villainous hits with a great premise; it’s just that it takes some time to get there. Writer Stonie Williams spends a good amount of time introducing us to these characters, this world, and its rules. Much of this comes through as a literal history lesson as RepTilly goes through her orientation. I cut some slack here as an entire new universe is being established and it takes some time to lay the groundwork.
The first chunk of Villainous #1 feels like a super hero version of The Devil Wears Prada. RepTilly lands her dream gig and it looks like she’s going to be reduced to a lackey picking up dry cleaning and running errands for the heroes. Once we hit the twist, things really pick up. If this comic was a roller coaster, the first half of the book would be that long climb up and the second half would be the fast-paced drops, loops, and spirals. That’s where the book really caught my attention.
Colorist Joana Lafuente matches this perfectly. The first chunk of Villainous #1 is bright and vibrant. It’s your typical super hero book. Somewhere along the line, things get darker. Shadows grow larger. The palette shifts to a more foreboding tone. Yes, this happens to coincide with the sun going down, but it’s more than that. Even the scenes at night have this ominous quality to them.
Artist Jef Sadzinksi does some brilliant work with the character designs. RepTilly is literally wide-eyed as she heads into the Sidekick program. She looks so innocent that we instantly want to protect her. This makes the events of the second half of Villainous #1 all the more harrowing as we’ve quickly become invested in her as a character. Who hasn’t had a crappy entry level job before?
Despite her innocent demeanor, there’s still a potential for evil in RepTilly, perhaps mostly due to her reptilian appearance. Those animals are often associated with the bad guys. Her internal narration, shown in scaled caption boxes by letterer Justin Birch matches up with this.
The other heroes fulfill your stereotypical roles, but are overly expressive. Her boss, Showdown, is a cocky muscle man and it shows. You can see that his ego is just as large as his biceps if not larger. He looks down on everyone else around him because of his power and position in life. This makes it easy to hate him from the jump.
It’s tough to create something new in the super hero genre when the market is already dominated by Marvel and DC. Villainous carves out a new path with an interesting take. The cliffhanger ending certainly left me wanting more. We’re not leaping tall buildings in a single bound or running faster than a locomotive. Instead, we’re seeing what lurks in the shadows and how the other half lives.
Villainous #1 from Mad Cave Studios is currently available at your local comic shop and digitally through ComiXology and Amazon Kindle.