Villainous Vol 1
Villainous follows Tilly, one of the newest super-powered beings to join the Coalition of Heroes through their sidekick program. Working with her idols should be a dream come true, but when she learns too much too soon, 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.
The thrilling story of Tilly’s (more than understable) “descent to villainy” presents itself with a pretty simple premise that it is bold enough to follow to its natural conclusion. Kicking it off with a vibrant, action-focused art that gives a strong YA-teen superhero comic feel (in the vein of Runaways or Young X-Men), the action turns bloodier and the style takes a turn to noir and shadow-focused as the themes of the book escalate. Williams’ compelling arc of our underground villain-protagonists gets them to make some questionable decisions on how to fight the oppressive powers that be, and Sadzinski’s art gets to accompany that journey perfectly, with Lafuente’s colors varying with the narrative drama as it turns itself towards greyish, darker tones each page.
The creative team plays perfectly with the fine line between a YA look and a crude, even gruesome, noir story, in a way that captures the emotional harshness but would still attract readers of casual superhero comics targeted towards younger audiences. Birch’s lettering and special effects work perfectly in that balance, as well as the carefully packed design of the volume by Miguel Ángel Zapata. I would highly recommend getting this comic in its paperback form, as the design definitely invites you into the story, with each chapter opening with a two-tone detective classification files-vibe full page (which goes just in line with how every chapter opens with two detectives investigating the “facts”).
There’s a sense of catharsis in how the creative team drives the book that makes us question the world it presents and that leaves a wide room for grey areas, with some complex characters that it’s impossible not to grow emotionally fond of (or opposed to), especially as the comics forces you to deal with their grief, their motives, their marginalization, and how the system that enables the corrupt “heroes” can only be fight back with villainy. If I have to tell any downside of Villainous, I would say sometimes I wanted more of its details and nuances, like I really wanted to know the story of how Miss Nemesis’ swift by the end of this book, or more of the villain’s backgrounds, but, overall, the feeling of wanting more is part of what makes this fictional world more than enchanting.
In a way that leaves comfort zones of classic comic books' storylines, as its protagonists cross more than one line most times deemed uncrossable, Villainous wraps up a relevant powerful story in action-fitted art and noir charming design.
It makes you understand the feelings of "rooting for the villain" against the system that makes possible (and even desirable) the corrupt "heroes" and enables their atrocities, taking a stance in a subversive position that has managed to frame villainy not as a cool thing, but as a necessary thing in an unjust system.
Villainous Vol 1: A Villain’s Work
Writing - 9/10
Storyline - 9.5/10
Art - 9.5/10
Color - 9/10
Cover Art - 9/10
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