Villainous – Stonie Williams & Jef Sadzinski
“We got an ID?” “Yea. Name’s Caleb Green. Moved here in 2015 accordin’ to the Coalition’s database. Hero ID: Archmage. Sidekick program, upper level.” “Waitaminute. Ain’t that Showdown’s new sidekick?”
What if superheroes sucked?
Villainous is Stonie William’s first graphic novel and is also the first in the Villainous series. Published in May 2021, it has received mixed reviews leaning towards negativity, despite the popularity of the following comics in the series.
Despite being aimed at the teenage/young adult audience, this comic is better suited for younger children. It deals with many clichés and stereotypes that make it dull and difficult for older readers to get through.
The story follows Tilly, a lizard-human hybrid who is one of many interns at the Coalition of Heroes. She’s spent her entire life working towards this moment, so it should be a dream come true. But when Tilly overhears crucial information, she suddenly realizes that the good guys aren’t always that good. Torn between doing what’s right and doing what’s expected of her, she struggles to navigate this complicated world of heroism and villainy.
Villainous is one of the worst graphic novels that I’ve read to date. It monopolizes already-overused clichés in the superhero genre and as a result, the comic creates a wholly unimaginative story that leaves no lasting impression whatsoever.
- One of the very few highlights of this comic is the art style. Illustrator Jef Sadzinski did an incredible job designing each of the heroes and villains. Although some of the outfits are clichéd, others are a great example of imagination. The protagonist isn’t always perfect looking, and the nuance of her emotions are captured in amusing ways throughout the comic.
- The supposed “villains” are far more interesting than the heroes. They have greater depth and don’t tick as many TV Trope boxes. The main character resembles a lizard rather than a model, the super tough machoman makes fan videos in his spare time, and their costumes are an interesting mix of modern and classic movie villain design.
- It breaks down what it means to be a hero and a villain. Tilly is forced to question what actually makes someone good or bad, as well as the role society plays in that. The comic makes the reader wonder just how many ‘good’ people in positions of power are only there because no one has thought to question them yet.
- Clichés, stereotypes, and tropes galore! Not a single line of this comic came as a surprise because it was so predictable. Good cop versus bad cop, “my entire life’s been a lie!”, the badguy has a heart of gold, dramatic reveal ending, “I’ve got a bad feeling about this”, friends to enemies, holograms, “so you lied to me!”, reluctant-to-kill-hero, colourful costumes with a chest insignia, etc.
- Everything is very convenient. Tilly overhears a villainous plot just at the right moment. The police never show up too early or too late. Something even delays the hero by pure chance which of course prevents them from exploding along with their car. It’s painful to read.
- The characters have no depth. Tilly’s parents gave up everything for her to attend the Superhero Academy TM. However, we never actually see this happening, which makes it difficult to care about it. Likewise, when the good guy suddenly turns evil, it’s neither shocking nor interesting because we haven’t seen them do anything good yet. Everything is one dimensional and flat which makes it impossible to care about any of it.
Overall, I’d give Stonie Williams and Jef Sadzinski’s Villainous a one out of five. It’s a painful rehashing of superhero stereotypes and misunderstood villains that includes clichés on every second line.
I’d recommend this novel to younger children, purely because of their lack of exposure to these stereotypes before now. So older readers beware; the only surprise this comic offers is how completely unsurprising the storyline is.
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