We’re turning over a new leaf with this week’s “So You Want To Read Comics”. This is our weekly feature where we take a look at a single topic or genre, then give you two comic book recommendations, perfect for new readers, based on that topic or genre. This week we’re looking at the story trope of villains turning into heroes.
Everyone loves a redemption story. Inevitably as someone grows to enjoy a piece of entertainment and the characters within, a certain affection for the villain blooms. In turn, a desire to have their affection justified via the characters actions also comes in. This leads to the well used trope of the bad guy turning good, or at least not so bad. Most times, this change comes down to a single selfless act, think Darth Vader at the end of Return of The Jedi, or a late reveal of a character’s true motivations like Roy Batty in Blade Runner. With comics though, we often get a chance to see a villain turn good and then have a long series of stories afterwards. Now of course there’s plenty of characters who have had good guy phases before going back to villainy, but for some characters the change was so drastic that it’s hard to imagine them as outright villains at all anymore.
Here are a couple of comic series featuring characters that went from bad to good, and stayed that way (for now.)
HARLEY QUINN: NO GOOD DEED
Writer: Stephanie Phillips
Artist: Gene Ha
Publisher: DC Comics
Harley Quinn is a character that has flirted with being a hero for longer than she was an outright villain. Be it her involvement with The Suicide Squad, to her time spent with the Justice League. Even when she’s not an outright hero, her shenanigans very rarely go into true villainy territory. In this series, we see Harley making a firm decision to become a heroic person and help right some wrongs that she had some hand in making. It’s a good series that shows that deciding to be good is just the first step and that often it’s far easier to go back to the old ways. Also, this series gives the readers a glimpse at an aspect of Harley that doesn’t get a lot of attention when she has to match wits with another genius psychiatrist like herself. While this series does take place directly after an event called “The Joker War”, the elements of that story that a reader needs to know to fully get what’s going on here are explained well enough.
VENOM BY RICK REMENDER: VOL. 1
Writer: Rick Remender
Artist: Tony Moore
Publisher: Marvel Comics
You might remember the name Flash Thompson from the Spider-Man movies and animated series. He was basically the typical cliche bully to Peter Parker. The twist was that he idolized Peter’s alter-ego Spider-Man. So much so that he decided to join the military and try to become a war hero, becoming severely wounded in the process. This leads him to being bonded with the alien symbiote Venom, another one of Peter Parker’s long time foes. What you get with this series is essentially two characters coming together as one, both with their own brand of redemption they’re striving for. On one side you have Flash who’s hero worship puts him in a place where bad things happen, things that haunt him, and on the other the symbiote who has been bonded with morally questionable people for so long, it’s unsure how to react to someone who truly wants to do good. While the series does tie in with some other bigger Marvel storylines at the time, it holds up as its own thing and if you don’t want to read any of the tie-ins, you’ll be fine.
What did you think of these recommendations? Who’s your favorite bad guy turned good? Let us know in the comments section below.