Full disclosure: I read a lot. I’m currently up to 34,484 pages from 103 books this year. I know this because I keep track for a contest my family has each year to see who reads the most. There are rules and prizes and this total doesn’t even include comics because they don’t reach the minimum page count required. I tend to read a lot more fiction than nonfiction because it’s faster and more fun, which leads into one of my favorite genres: Superhero fiction, the whole point of this feature. I will be reviewing and rating (1-5 stars, Goodreads scale) a real, actual book that deals with Superheroes, Superpowers, or THN Nerd stuff in some way, with Spoilers kept to a minimum. You’d be surprised, but there is actually a lot of them out there and most of them are original works not adaptations of comic book storylines. That said (drink), on to my first selection.
Confessions of a D-List Supervillain by Jim Bernheimer was published in 2011 and is 164 pages long. This is the story of Calvin Stringel – aka Mechani-Cal – an electrical engineer who has hit hard times and resorted to being a Mech suit wearing super villain. His former boss and current arch-enemy is a dick; think Marvel’s Beetle vs Iron Man. It opens with the world being overrun with mind-controlling, addictive bugs which Calvin survives since he never takes off his suit. While escaping capture and brainwashing from the premier super-team the Olympians, he kidnaps/rescues and eventually detoxes the hottest superhero on the planet, Aphrodite. Together they try to stop this world domination scheme gone wrong and save humanity from extinction. But if they win, will he be able to make it as a pardoned superhero when everyone else still thinks he’s a D-List loser, or will he return to a life of crime?
I read this for the first time in about 2 days. It’s quick, fast and fun, and yes I say “first time” because I have since read it 3 more times – I read it again to write this review. It’s realistic (as realistic as you can get when you’re talking about superheroes and armored suits). Calvin’s just a regular engineer who is constantly trying to think of better ways to solve a problem and upgrade his armor. He’s a down to earth, quippy jerk that loves Biz Markie and who may just save the world. We learn throughout the book what mistakes he’s made to get here and see how he adapts to every new hardship. It’s a fast-paced story that never drags and is constantly pushing the plot forward in a logical, interesting way. Bernheimer’s main characters are well-developed and genuine, and his writing style is simple and straightforward. This works in the book’s favor because you are left feeling like Cal is your friend and are strongly rooting for him. This is a book driven much more by plot than his prose or detail, so you won’t ever get bogged down trying to read paragraphs of description about the scenery. Bernheimer had a great story to tell and you’re with him every step of the way wondering what will happen next. If you like armored heroes and superhero fiction this is a great book. It won’t make you think, and you won’t come away having learned some valuable moral for life, but you will have read a fun story.
Rating: 4 stars – Andrew really liked it.
There is a sequel/prequel, Origins of a D-List Supervillain, which is okay. It fills in the complete story that’s hinted at throughout Confessions. If you enjoy Confessions, by all means give it a go, but it’s not necessary. You already expect most of the big points in the story because you know what happens in Confessions. Origins even ends EXACTLY where Confessions starts. The author also puts way too many not so SUBTLE hints about Aphrodite in the text that are way too annoying if you’ve already read Confessions. However, Bernheimer does satisfactorily answer the question of why someone with the skills to build a Mech suit would consider becoming a villain rather than selling his inventions. It’s an extremely well thought out answer that is only briefly touched upon in Confessions. (Spoiler Alert: it’s basically Intellectual Property law and Non-Compete clauses.) Origins is a great read if you want the complete story, but otherwise you can wait for the third volume and actual sequel: Secrets of a D-List Supervillain, which is supposed to come out in the next few months.
Andrew McBride is the newest THN Love Slave. He has yet to gain control over his own signature.