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Between the Panels: Villainy
By Lance Victor Eaton (March 2007)

The heroes get everything. They get the good press, the great teams, the beautiful damsel in distress, the best marketing campaigns, and the coolest toys. Do we ever pay our villains their proper due? Occasionally, we get snippets of an intriguing Lex Luthor, a complex Joker, and a misunderstood Doctor Doom, but these are mere flickers of a candle in the explosion of light surrounding superheroes. Two new books look to rectify our obsession with the good guy by giving us a close hand account of the daily lives of villains.

VillainsAfter losing his job, Nick Corrigan needs to find a stable source of income before his girlfriend realizes he's a bigger bum than she realized. Luck comes his way - in Villains by Adam Cogan, Ryan Cody, Russ Lowery - when he discovers that his apartment building's maintenance man is none other than Charles 'Hardliner' Cobb, a retired supervillain who often fought toe-to-toe with the great Flying Ace. Deciding that blackmail is more lucrative than unemployment, Corrigan informs Cobb that he will be using his Hardliner outfit and that unless Cobb teaches him everything, Corrigan will reveal his whereabouts to the Flying Ace.

Cobb helps to train Corrigan and even sets up contacts and heists for him, but is far from trustworthy. The tension between the two often comes to blows and Corrigan learns the harder lessons of criminal life. But the tests and tribulations still help Corrigan to prepare for his battles with the Flying Ace, whom he needs to defeat or at the very least escape from, if he expects to have any kind of future in this business. Added to this graphic novel is a shorter piece, Old Scores. This Hardliner tale fills in some of Cobb's backstory. Charles Clark's art here doesn't hold up to that of Ryan Cody in the main story. Cody's art is crisp and smooth. He also uses black and darkness quite well, while Clark's bodies never appear right.

ArchenemiesMeanwhile, Drew Melbourne's Archenemies plays with a theme reminiscent of a Shakespearian play. As roommates, Vincent Baxter and Ethan Darko can barely tolerate each other. Darko likes a quiet, calm, and clean apartment while Baxter seems to run on charm and alcohol. Unbeknownst to each, both have secret identities. Baxter roams the streets at night as Star Fighter, a fiery young superhero in yellow and red, whose archenemy is none other than the Underlord, Darko's alter-ego. Until recently, Darko's role has been to dispatch killer robots to do his bidding. But when his father dies and he inherits his power suit, Darko makes his debut.

However, the battle at home can be as extreme as the one on the streets. With a rent-controlled apartment in New York City, neither roommate is about to move out, and so the two must passive-aggressively pummel each other into submission. Humor with a sharp edge of anger permeates this graphic novel and readers will be looking for volume two before they finish this first one. The extras herein include a replication of the roommate agreement, a fictitious blog and character interview, a sketch gallery, and other odds and ends that will make readers smile.

These arenít the first stories to provide the villain's point of view, yet they do add their own element to this anti-hero subgenre. Villains and heroes have many things in common, which is part of what makes Archenemies so delectable. On the other hand, Villains reveals how easy it is to fall into the role of the bad guy, and how hard it is to step away from it.
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