REVIEW: ‘Villainous,’ Volume 1

Reading Time: 2 minutes

Villainous Volume 1 - But Why Tho?

Villainous Volume 1 is written by Stonie Williams, illustrated by Jef Sadzinski, colored by Joana LaFuente, and lettered by Justin Birch. It is published by Mad Cave Studios. Superhero-in-training Matilda Anderson—better known by her code name “Rep-Tilly”—is the latest recruit of the Coalition of Heroes. Eager to work alongside her heroes and battle the sinister Shadow Order, Rep-Tilly soon learns a massive secret that fundamentally upends her perception of good and evil. She then enters in a race against time to prevent the rise of World War III with some unlikely allies.

The idea of flipping the script on superhero narratives is nothing new: The Boys paints its caped-and-cowled saviors as morally reprehensible beings, while Marvel’s Thunderbolts were villains masquerading as heroes under Baron Zemo. While Williams isn’t exactly breaking new ground with his story, he does manage to capture the humanity of his protagonist and showcase the process of learning that your heroes are not so heroic. Even though Rep-Tilly’s entire life is turned upside down, she still wants to do the right thing. Said “right thing” happens to involve clandestine activity and to lean into the role of the “villain.”

What helps the book stand out from its predecessors is Sadzinski’s art. Sadzinski has a simple yet striking style that wouldn’t feel out of place in adult animation. The Coalition of Heroes, including gun-toting leader Pilar and super strong Showdown, feel perfectly heroic and could stand toe-to-toe with the Justice League and Avengers. In contrast, the Shadow Order feels extremely menacing, especially their leader Sedition, who is clad from head to toe in black and has a mask covering the lower half of his face. The standout, however, is Rep-Tilly. As one might guess, her superpowers give her reptilian skin and hair and even a tail. Yet she still showcases emotion, whether it’s shock or anger-all expressed through her large blue eyes.

Sadzinksi also draws the hell out of his fight sequences, and he and Williams are having fun experimenting with different applications of superpowers. When someone is on the receiving end of a super-strength punch, they look like they get the wind out of them. A super speedster appears as a collection of people as she moves from place to place. Perhaps the most innovative use of superpowers comes from the lovely yet lethal December/Winter Witch, who, in addition to her cryogenic powers, utilizes guns and other weaponry. It’s a rather smart move; superpowers can only get you so far.

LaFuente adds to the superheroic aspects of the book by giving the characters appropriate bright and dark colors depending on their moral alignments. The Coalition of Heroes is shown in bright primary colors, while the Shadow Order wears primarily black. It helps lure the reader into a sense of assurance before pulling out the rug from under them. And signifying the shifting alliances, Rep-Tilly’s caption boxes are often colored in gray, with black letters courtesy of Birch.

Though it tackles well-worn ground, Villainous Volume 1 is a love letter to the superhero genre and features a creative team that fires on all cylinders. Fans of superhero fare like The Boys or Invincible should definitely check it out.

Villainous Volume 1 is available now wherever comics are sold.

Villainous Volume 1
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TL;DR

Though it tackles well-worn ground, Villainous Volume 1 is a love letter to the superhero genre and features a creative team that fires on all cylinders. Fans of superhero fare like The Boys or Invincible should definitely check it out.