CreateSpace (self-published), 2011, 164 pages
"Being a supervillain means never having to say you’re sorry - unless it’s to the judge or the parole board. Even then, you don’t really have to. It’s not like it’s going to change the outcome or anything." Those are the words of Calvin Matthew Stringel, better known as Mechani-Cal. He’s a down-on-his-luck armored villain. Follow his exploits as he gets swept up in a world domination scheme gone wrong and ends up working for these weak willed, mercy loving heroes. Immerse yourself in epic battles and see what it’s like to be an outsider looking in at a world that few have ever experienced. Climb into Cal’s battlesuit and join him on his journey. Will he avoid selling out his principles for a paycheck and a pardon? Can he resist the camaraderie of being on a super team? Does he fall prey to the ample charms of the beautiful Olympian Aphrodite? How will he survive the jealous schemes of Ultraweapon, who wears armor so powerful it makes Cal’s look like a museum piece?
See the world of “righteous do-gooders” through the eyes of someone who doesn’t particularly care for them. Revel in his sarcasm and hang on for one wild ride! Just remember: losing an argument with a group of rioters isn’t a good excuse to start lobbing tear gas indiscriminately at them. You’ve only got so many rounds and it’s going to be a long day, so make sure you get as many as possible with each one.
I'm pretty hard on self-published novels, because most of them suck monkey gangrene stew. But with more authors going that route, there are more books that just might be worth reading but don't have the Big Idea necessary for trade publishing success. Hence, Confessions of a D-List Supervillain, which I found to be a perfectly entertaining superhero novel, as good as any of the others I've read recently, which was originally launched on CreateSpace. It doesn't bring anything new to the genre, or to the growing list of superhero novels, but the author manages to pack a fair amount of his own superhero mythos into a fairly short book.
Calvin Stringel, aka "Mechani-Cal," is, as the title of his autobiography indicates, a D-list supervillain. He's that guy you barely remember who took up about 4 pages in issue #277 six years ago. Spider-Man beat him up once, and maybe he was part of a gang that got flattened by the Avengers during an ill-conceived plan to raid Fort Knox. The most dedicated fanboy says, "Who?"
I am not a D-lister, dammit! I appeared on
(half) the cover of Strange Tales #123!
Mechani-Cal is basically, as he is repeatedly reminded, a cheap knockoff of Ultraweapon, who is this universe's Iron Man. As the story starts, however, the villainous Overlord has unleashed a plague of mind-controlling insects that have taken over most of the planet. Mechani-Cal, by staying in his armor for the last few weeks, is one of the few free-willed humans left on Earth. When he runs into the Olympians — the most powerful superhero team on Earth, and all mind-controlled — he manages to free Aphrodite from her mental enslavement. They head back to his secret underground base, which is actually a rathole in a junkyard.
The plot thenceforth flows in heroic fashion as Mechani-Cal ends up literally helping save the world, and thus "reformed," tries to earn a pardon for all past crimes by joining the good guys. Of course, none of them trust him, and Calvin is, while not truly evil, certainly not a hero. And he's now dating Aphrodite. Who used to be dating Ultraweapon. Ultraweapon doesn't take this very well.
Mechani-Cal is actually a "realistic" character given the givens of a superhero universe. The explanation for how an engineering genius has wound up being a low-rent villain mostly known for getting pounded by any hero he has the misfortune to fight makes sense, and Cal's struggle to redeem himself, without really feeling like he needs redemption, makes him a character you root for even if he is still kind of a jerk. It helps that it turns out that some of the heroes are even bigger jerks.
Cal levels up in a big way over the course of the book. He also gets to bang two of the most beautiful and powerful superheroines in the world, despite being a nerdy, unattractive ex-villain. A wish-fulfillment fantasy? Oh yeah. But he never really stops being a dork who screws up more often than he succeeds. And yet, he's very human and endearing in a fallible way. He continually does all the right things, not necessarily for the right reasons.
I enjoyed this book quite a lot. It was like a good miniseries based on some obscure mainstream comics character that a writer took a shine to, except of course these are all characters who exist only in this book.
Verdict: Self-published. Superhero novel. I have not always had success with that combination. But this one works. It's short, action-packed, true to the genre, and strikes the right balance of humor and sincerity. Confessions of a D-List Supervillain is nothing new or brilliant, but it's fun for those who like superhero novels.
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