The first thing you should know about Villains Never Die is it’s going to be familiar. The second thing you should know about Villains Never Die is it’s going to be completely foreign.
That might seem like an oxymoron, but it isn’t. If the superhero story is a classic Mustang, Nick DeWolf brought it into his shop, tore out all of the old junk that engineers have improved in the last half century, replaced it with new technology, gave it a real good wash and wax, and then sent it out to the showroom floor.
When you crack it open and read the first few pages, it’s going to feel like a story you’ve read before, the one you expect, and on many levels, Villains Never Die doesn’t contain too many surprises. But after you’ve really dug in, you’re going to find those elements within are brand new and fit for a contemporary audience.
As someone who loved comic books during the era between classic and modern superheroes, my favorite part of Villains Never Die is it portrays comic books at their inception as well as the comic books of today. There is a juxtaposition and a generational representation within that cleverly depicts comic books when there was a greater emphasis on fun and adventure versus dark and broody existentialism.
That isn’t to say Villains Never Die isn’t a serious superhero story. It is, but it never takes itself too seriously. It’s clear Nick put tons of thought into his heroes and villains, their origins, and the universe at large. There is plenty of depth here for the reader to get immersed and invested in, and there is plenty of emotional power in the story’s turning points.
Villains Never Die sets out to tell a fairly simple story, but it defies convention in several ways. For instance, the chapters are rotating scenes depicting three main characters. Two of those stories are in the present while one is in retrospective. The best aspect of this structure is Nick makes sense of it by the end, and it does, in fact, pay off in a satisfying way.
Perhaps the greatest challenge Nick undertook for this one was a seemingly personal mandate to be inclusive for minorities and people of color. Since I’m a white guy, I’ll leave the judgement of his success here to those who identify in those groups, but to me, it seems like he did his best to provide an authentic, accurately representative storytelling experience for the most neglected of superhero fans. It seems Nick approached that aspect of the story both with humility and courage. It seems he had the humility to know the limits of his knowledge, experience, and identity, and it seems he had the courage to push into those issues despite it being much easier and safer not to. No matter how successful he was here, I think he should be commended for his willingness to even attempt it.
But what about the white dudes in the audience? This one’s for you, too, if you embrace the new perspectives and portrayals as a beauty of humanity, not the divisive cultural rift we have made it into in post-2016 western civilization. This is a story about human beings, people whose lives and experiences may seem very foreign to you but also very familiar.
The threads of commonality between us are many, the differences few. If nothing else, Villains Never Die demonstrates that fact organically while providing a fun, action-packed, thrilling superhero story for all.
Check it out on Amazon here.