Review: Astounding Villain House (One-Shot)

Well this is an easy review for me to write because I’ve already read and technically reviewed all of the stories inside this one-shot. I’m covering it because I know that there are plenty of people who don’t buy or read Dark Horse Comics Presents and so this will be their first exposure to Shannon Wheeler’s Villain House. Don’t let the name fool you this book is about super villains… I don’t know why you were possibly fooled, but don’t be. I was honestly hoping that this would be the start of an ongoing or mini, but maybe it’s just testing the waters and this one-shot will attract some attention to the series. As I said it’s about super villains. It takes a hilarious look at a golden or silver age superhero world placed in a modern setting. Meaning the criminals are bumbling, but we have the internet. It’s broken into four tales that follow different villains and each of the tales has its own strength and comedic pacing. I’m going to recap the two I enjoyed the most, but overall they’re all great stories.

Astounding Villain House CoverThe first story “The Squid and Pachyderm”, the two characters are like c-list villains that are locked up in a super max prison. Pachyderm just wants to do his time and leave, but The Squid hassles him constantly about breaking out. Pachyderm finds out his mother is dying and after the Warden denies him visitation to see her he goes along with the plan. This story really sets the pace for the series as nothing goes right for our villains because they’re bad guys.

The next story I want to talk about is my personal favorite called “Blind Mole-Rat King” and is basically Wheeler’s take on the Fantastic Four and the Mole Man. I’m not actually going to tell you about the story, but if you want to you can read my review for the DHP issue here. It’s quite possibly one of the funniest comic book spoofs I’ve read; and it’s definitely one of the funniest stories I’ve read. Wheeler really captures the flaws in the FF’s personalities.

The thing about this series is that Wheeler flips the script and makes you see the villains as people and the heroes as just costumed lunatics. Usually in comics you’re given a very thin background on a villain because all you really need to know is that they’re bad and see them perform an evil deed, but Wheeler looks at their motivation and it’s fantastic. Pachyderm isn’t a good guy, but you feel for him when he wants to see his mom. The Blind Mole-Rat King isn’t even a bad guy, but at the same time you don’t want to hang out with him at a weekend BBQ either. They’re just people and that’s what makes the stories great. I mean when have you ever read Dr. Doom or Lex Luther and thought, “they’re just a dude like me”? Probably never if you’re honest, but Wheeler does a phenomenal job of making each character believable.

The comedy is great and it all stems from Wheeler’s fantastic dialogue. His LPP (Laughs Per Page) is very high, but due to the different story structures you won’t get tired of laughing or figure out the beats. I know that happens a lot with short stories that when you read a lot of them back to back they stop having the same effectiveness, but not here. You’ll be laughing all the way to the end.

If you’re unfamiliar with Wheeler’s art style then you’ll probably be put off at first since he’s not a beefcake artist. He’s very skilled and has chosen a style that matches the story that he’s telling so don’t blow it off just because it doesn’t look like a book from the “big two.” His character expressions steal the show and play a huge role in making them realistic characters. His visual storytelling is very impressive and is an equal part of the stories success.

I really didn’t need to review this issue, but I couldn’t just let it pass by. It’s a great one-shot that I would highly recommend to any fan of the superhero genre that doesn’t take it so seriously. Hell I would also recommend it if you just need a laugh this week because it’s not going to disappoint you. If you like it then give it some love and tell Dark Horse you’d like more because I know there’s the potential for new characters and stories.

Score: 5/5

Writer/Artist/Creator: Shannon Wheeler Publisher: Dark Horse Comics Price: $3.50 Release Date: 10/30/13