A Review So Good I Nearly Cried

 

The Villain’s Sidekick

 

by Stephen Brophy

 

 

When I was first introduced to this book, I thought it might fall alongside books such as “Grunts,” by Mary Gentile, books that show a story from the “other side.”  Sidekicks of villains rarely have a place in the sun and usually end up in dire straits as the good guys triumph.  When I started reading, though, I saw a lot more of Terry Pratchett in it, but if this book is any indication, Stephen Brophy can give the esteemed Mr. Pratchett a run for his money.

 This book is taut, well-edited, and well-crafted.  Characterization is detailed without being tedious, and the storyline quickly draws the reader in.  There is a good deal of literary tension that qualifies this book as a page-turner.  On top of that, it is darn funny.  The humor, though, does not get in the way of the plot, as it does in so many other books, but rather supports it.  While it echoes Pratchett to an extent in the feel of the humor, where Pratchett elicits his humor in action and general observations, Brophy’s humor centers on the personal thoughts and attributes of the protagonist.  To me, that brings a deeper relevancy to the humor.  I could identify with it.

  Duke “HandCannon” LaRue is a bad guy, have no doubt about that.  He is an ex-con, a crook, a killer (although he’s killed fewer times than someone might suspect.)  He isn’t concerned about what his boss, Dr. Eye, might do with an item he’s sent to retrieve.  On the other hand, he dotes on his diabetic cat, Miss Lady, and loves his six-year-old daughter.  He has the same problems as so many of us have—an ex-spouse, paying for a mortgage for a house in which he no longer lives, a job that interferes with his domestic life.  He may be a baddie, but we can relate to him. I think that is a key to the book, and when Handcannon says he’s a bad dad for something he’s about to do, we’ve all been in that type of situation. 

 This is a funny book, but it is not just a platform for one-liners.  There was nary a weak spot, and I enjoyed every page.  This is one of the very best books I’ve read this year, and I give it my highest recommendation.

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Four Out of Five Magnetic Projectiles

A terrific review from the good folks at fanboycomics.net.

‘The Villain’s Sidekick:’ Book Review

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‘The Villain's Sidekick:’ Book Review

Duke is a hardworking, blue-collar guy who just hasn’t had much luck in his life . . . or does a good job of blowing what luck comes his way. He lost several body parts to a tour of duty in Afghanistan, spent time in jail for assaulting his ex-wife’s current boyfriend, struggles with gambling debts, student loans, and a mortgage payment on said ex-wife’s home, barely is allowed visitation with his six-year-old daughter, attends 12-step meetings for substance abuse and anger issues, and works as muscle for one of Houston’s resident villains. Things get interesting, though, when he fails in obtaining an artifact for his employer and gets sent on a quest to retrieve it, which uncovers a strange tale that turns the superhero genre upside down.

Duke was a difficult character for me to empathize with at first, because I have zero experience with his type of hard boiled, tough guy individual; however, as facets of him as a father, friend, and reluctant pet owner began to come out, I realized that the tough exterior protected a sensitive spirit that wasn’t completely sure how to interact with the world without getting hurt. As he gains confidence in himself throughout The Villain’s Sidekick, I began to appreciate him a little more and recognize the importance of his story.

My favorite character, hands down, in this 82-page novella was Duke’s six-year-old daughter Cordelia, although several other characters also stood out. Her ability to both adore her father while simultaneously refusing to put up with any of his crap reminded me of how amazing children can be. She also is clever, gutsy, and willing to do what needs to be done in a dangerous situation, although some of it is utter confidence that her daddy will rescue her. Of course, any child that can charm an oldish, shy, diabetic cat named Mrs. Lady into being her best friend and then appropriately showers affectionate on the feline warms my heart substantially, which predisposed me in Cordelia’s favor.

I laughed at the tongue-in-cheek names donned by both superheroes and villains alike in The Villain’s Sidekick, some of which are delightfully punny pokes at pop culture. The tone of the piece is very humorous overall, but it’s often a very dry, self-deprecating wit that feels closer to sarcasm than true funniness.

The real coup, plot-wise, for this novella is the way the story sneaks up and twists before the reader fully realizes it. I was pleasantly surprised by the unexpected turn, both because it made the story far more interesting, and it helped deepen Duke’s characterization.

Overall, The Villain’s Sidekick is a great, short read for people who love superheroes but feel that the genre has gotten a little trite. The novella probably won’t change your world, but it will definitely keep you occupied for an hour or two.

4 Magnetic Projectiles out of 5

The Villain’s Sidekick was written by Stephen T. Brophy and is available via Budget Press.

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