Friend of the Blog Barry Lyga (The Astonishing Adventures of Fanboy and Goth Girl) is launching a new young adult novel series with Archvillain, out this month from Scholastic.

It’s the story of Kyle, who was setting up to play a prank the night the weird meteor shower gave him superpowers. Now, Kyle’s bored in school, because his new intelligence has put him miles ahead of everyone, and his former status as most popular kid in school has been usurped by a nice guy superhero interloper. In other words, he’s jealous of Mighty Mike, an amnesic 12-year-old who’s really an alien visitor from another planet.

As events continue, Kyle doesn’t realize how he looks to others, or how his self-rationalizations are becoming more strained as his behavior becomes more selfish. Superhero comic readers will notice that this feels a lot like reading a teenaged Lex Luthor’s diary. I wish Kyle was the kind of kid who could have been friends with the new guy instead of resenting him. Unfortunately, because this is the first in a series, things can’t be completely resolved, instead putting the characters in place for more books. (There’s no word yet on when the next one may be released.)

It’s a fascinating idea to me that maybe the bad guy, the one who’s always convinced that everyone would recognize his greatness if only they’d stop paying attention to that other person over there who always comes out on top due to unselfishness and a good heart, is more relatable to today’s kids than the superhero. It’s certainly an approach better suited to a world ruined by reality TV and Wall Street shenanigans, where everyone’s out for themselves and is craving recognition without actually doing anything to deserve it. Of course, most young readers won’t react to it that way, They’ll just see a kid doing cool things while everything doesn’t go his way, a situation most preteens can sympathize with. But parents may want to discuss the underlying ethics after their younger ones finish the book, just to find out how they took the situation.

Archvillain is $16.99 in hardcover and recommended for ages 9-11. (The publisher provided a review copy.)

7 Responses to “Archvillain”

  1. Grant Says:

    That premise sounds an awful lot like the Dreamworks film “Megamind” with Ferrel and Clooney.

  2. Johanna Says:

    It’s a common idea, now that so many people who grew up reading superhero comics are making their own books and movies. Plenty of people want to put their own take on Superman and Luthor. Only Megamind seems to have more of a role for the girl. There’s one here, too, but since the kids are young, it’s more of a friendship, and she doesn’t have much distinct personality. In Megamind, they have the advantage of Tina Fey.

  3. Anthony Says:

    The premise of the story sounds more like the old Superboy and Lex Luthor relationship, especially with the two described characters being preteens/teens. Nice to see somebody besides me and “Smallville”‘s producers (and I guess DC itself in recent Legion stories) recall or liked the old Superboy comics… :-p

  4. Barry Says:

    Barry jumping in here…

    First, thanks for the review, Johanna!

    As to Megamind… First I heard of it was — literally — last night when I saw a trailer for it at the theater. Almost threw up right there! Great minds think alike??? :) Archvillain’s been in the works since 2006-ish, though. We’ll chalk it up to another coincidence on the order of the X-Men and the Doom Patrol or Armageddon and Deep Impact.

    @Anthony: You, sir, have a fellow traveler in your love for the old Superboy/Lex Luthor relationship. In fact, if I have the chance to go beyond the currently-schedule three books, there will be some fun callbacks to those old comics.

    Oh, and since Johanna mentioned Mairi — she has some more face time in the second book and really comes into her own in the third. She has a moment in the second book that I really love.

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