How to build a super-villain


I’ve often wondered what the normals in the world of the superheroes think about.  Do they appreciate those looking out for them?  Do they fear that one day the hero might turn into a villain and nuke their baby on panel for the world to see?  Do they loathe and hate the superhero for raising taxes and insurance premiums every time the city has to clean up or repair all the damage and destruction caused by the last major battle?  And what about those who have lost loved ones in the collateral damage from those fights? Do they get compensation, or do they get a friendly pat on the head from the man in tights with a gentle “There, there, boy… shut up”?  Invincible #59 puts these questions to the test, as the title character meets a new nemesis that he helped create.

invincible59cover.jpgHow do you create a super-villain?  There are a couple of ways; cause a freak accident that causes your best friend to lose his hair, thus seeking revenge on you for all time, continually thwart the villains attempts to rob the local City National Bank, or, probably the best method, “accidentally” kill the villain’s loved one. That’s exactly what happened to Powerplex (a.k.a. Scott Duval), when a building collapsed on his sister during the epic battle between Omni-man and Invincible.

Instead of hiring a troop of henchmen to torment the hero, Scott discovers he has the ability to store up kinetic energy and redirect it back as bolts of lightning.  It also doesn’t hurt that Scott works for the government, and has been quietly pilfering technology to help him store that energy longer.  A tailored suit later, and he’s ready to do battle.

Another thing that has crossed my mind a time or two when reading these four colored tales is how does the average villain get on the #1 hero’s radar?  Sure committing a crime in the area the hero is sure to frequent is one way – I think I’d make it a point to stage events near the Daily Planet.  But what if you don’t know where the hero hangs out?  There’s going to a period of time where the villain works his way up through the ranks of heroes, starting with the lowly D-lister heroes, until he finally earns enough street cred to take on numero uno.  It has to be a bitch to have to deal with Super Duper Dude fifteen times in a row before the target of ire shows his face.

Fortunately for Scott, his wife is a big supporter of everything he’s doing, going so far as to pretend she and the couple’s son are kidnapped victims of Powerplex.   Invincible does show up, and with his family in close proximity you know something terrible and tragic is going to happen – and it does in a horrible, terrible way.

Oddly, Powerplex really isn’t a villain, he’s just a guy looking for revenge.  Which puts him on the Z-List of guys who have a grudge for the hero all the hot girls are crazy for.  It’s hard to have a lot of sympathy for Scott as it seems he’s going about his revenge in a way that is not well thought out, and the reader knows what’s going to happen, so it’s like watching a car accident happen in slow motion.  On the flip side, Powerplex finally does find his motivation for becoming a true villain, and when the moment arrises – that is, when Kirkman needs to resurrect a villain for another between arc story, Powerplex is sure to return.

The plotting and pacing seems a little weird, as the reader knows Scott Duval is a very smart guy, but he comes off in the dialogue as someone with a slight mental deficiency.    The art by Ryan Ottley continues to shine, however, there are moments in the issue that are pretty graphic, and those that don’t like seeing dead children on panel, are going to want to avoid this issue.

With as tragic as this story is, it’s really difficult to say this is a really good issue, as it makes the person making that statement seem rather sadistic.  But seeing a person go from average Joe with powers to a foe that could bring Invincible down is a cool tale for Robert Kirkman to tell (Invincible doesn’t even show up until the final nine pages of the book) – and I like it enough to give Invincible #59 4 out of 5 Stars.



About Author

Stephen Schleicher began his career writing for the Digital Media Online community of sites, including Digital Producer and Creative Mac covering all aspects of the digital content creation industry. He then moved on to consumer technology, and began the Coolness Roundup podcast. A writing fool, Stephen has freelanced for Sci-Fi Channel's Technology Blog, and Gizmodo. Still longing for the good ol' days, Stephen launched Major Spoilers in July 2006, because he is a glutton for punishment. You can follow him on Twitter @MajorSpoilers and tell him your darkest secrets...


  1. Good god, when Powerplex fried his family on panel… it was horrific! (And awesome.) I was not expecting it to be that… explicit. The Boys hasn’t got a reaction from me like this did =p

    I didn’t see Powerplex as having mental deficiencies but rather barely contained and suppressed loss manifesting as rage. Lots of rage.

  2. Presently, I’m getting most of my enjoyment with Invincible from Ottley and FCO’s beautiful artwork. Bill Crabtree’s no slouch, but I think FCO works a bit better with Ottley’s linework.

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