Pullbox Reviews: Villainous #1 – Who watches the… Sidekick?

Villainous follows RepTilly, one of the newest super-powered people to join the Coalition of Heroes through their Sidekick program, as she navigates the dizzying world of Super-Heroes. Working with her idols should be a dream come true. But when she learns too much about her heroes Tilly’s dream quickly turns into a nightmare. As she learns more about the sordid history of the COH, Tilly has to make a choice- Get in line and stand with her heroes or take a stand and risk becoming something more… Villainous.

Who watches the… nope, that’s not it.

Never meet your… uh uh, closer but still the wrong comic.

Stop me if you’ve heard this one. As the premiere team of super powered enforcers of justice, the Coalition of Heroes is beyond reproach. That’s what everyone thinks. That’s what RepTilly thought when she was inducted into the ranks of sidekicks, to serve alongside the pinnacle of heroic endeavor, Showdown. Those illusions last only as long as it takes her to overhear a conversation in which her hero, in an attempt to get into a groupie’s pants, brags about a mission with a less than savory goal.

On the surface, it might seem that Villainous has been done before. Not gonna like, that’s kinda what I thought at first. And then I read the first issue and realized that while the theme itself might be familiar, the idea that no hero should be left unchecked or unaccountable, the execution takes a different angle. As Tilly’s eyes are opened to the truth behind the shiny exterior of the COH, her story isn’t told from the perspective of a betrayed colleague or hapless civilian. Tilly’s a star struck sidekick who’s pushed into the unenviable position of facing some pretty hard truths. From there, she has to take her newfound insight to the next logical step…

If the heroes are really the villains, then who are the real heroes?

Written by Stonie Williams, Villainous takes a stab at the superhero gone wrong storyline with a spin that takes a different angle. That’s the real trick in writing, taking an old idea and giving it something just new enough to resonate as both familiar & original. We’ve seen what happens when a hero turns against his peers, whether it be for the greater good or just cuz they can. We’ve seen what happens when the angry Everyman has his eyes opened to the corruption that can come from absolute power. Williams is putting together a story that looks at what happens when an insider realizes the truth behind the system she’s always dreamed of being a part of. Without giving too much away, the twists may not come with a Shyamalan level shock (given his last few movies, that’s probably a good thing), but there’s enough grist for the reader to chew on when RepTilly is thrown to the shadows & forced to open her previously naive eyes.

The artistic team of Jef Sadzinski & Joana Lafuente do their part with the theme, as Sadzinski’s character designs carry hints of the old… I mean, there are only so many ways you can draw up a group of super heroes. I’d say Sadzinski does a bang up job of it all, using recognizable elements but adding his own take to keep things interesting (particularly in the look for members of the Shadow Order of Villains). Lafuente keeps pace with her use of colors, giving each scene its own feel… the crime scene of the opening pages brings up thoughts of dingy noir detective stories, while the establishing shot of the COH could have been pulled right out of an old Justice Society issue.

Mad Cave Studios is one of those independent publishers who’ve been pushing boundaries and taking chances to make sure that they’re not backed into a self-made creative corner. Instead of being happy with their successes and settling into a niche, they’re making sure that anyone of any reading preference can find something to enjoy in their always growing library of titles. From fantasy to cyberpunk, western to gothic horror, Villainous finally brings them into the superhero genre… kinda. Where RepTilly winds up might not be a giant leap of logic, but getting there can be half the fun.

Final Score: 9

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