It’s time to look at the second book in the D-List Supervillain series – which is numbered one, despite being published after Confessions of a D-List Supervillain; which was retroactively numbered two, despite coming out first. Welcome to the Time Cube. Let’s unmask Origins of a D-List Supervillain, by Jim Bernheimer
Even D-List Supervillains have to start somewhere.
Follow Cal Stringel’s misadventures as he climbs to the lowest levels of supervillany in the prequel to the smash hit, Confessions of a D-List Supervillain. Angry that he wouldn’t be known as the engineer who made Ultraweapon’s force blasters, Cal resigns to chase after a bigger, better paycheck.
However, the Promethia Corporation isn’t going to let him go that easily and sets out to make his life a living hell. Fed up at being pushed around by a company with an endless supply of lawyers and litigation, Cal sets out to build his own version of Ultraweapon’s powered armor and take his revenge!
What Cal doesn’t count on is just how hard this is going to be.
Along the way, he will make both friends and enemies and discover how hard hitting rock bottom can feel. Whether Cal is trying to smooth talk his way out of the prison for supervillains, haggle with nefarious employers over the price of his inventions, or battle with the Gulf Coast Guardians, he’s in for one wild ride!
He’ll need to learn that when money is tight that everything has a price – from the cost of making weapons for a psychotic speedster to how much to charge for taking the blame for a drunken rampage through Las Vegas.
I was a bit leery going into this one because it’s a prequel. There’s a problem with prequels: namely, that they tell you a story you already know. Confessions of a D-List Supervillain already covered Cal’s backstory through his dialogue with other characters. Thus, in reading this book, I already know how the majority of events are going to turn out. I know that Cal’s inventions will be stolen by Lazarus, causing him to leave the company; I know that Lazarus’s lawyers will ruin Cal’s life, causing him to become the supervillain Mana-CAL-es; I know that he’ll be defeated by the Biloxi Bugler; I know that he’ll fall in love with a supervillain who will die when the Evil Overlord’s base self-destructs. Is it really necessary to go through all of that again? I am put in mind of another review blog, commenting on the Attack on Titan prequel spinoff A Choice With No Regrets:
The first fifty-six pages of your story should never, ever be so devoid of information that they can be summed up in two word bubbles that a character already told another character in a chapter in a different manga that was published two years ago. Ahem.
Now, to its credit, the book does contain plenty of good and original content; for instance, the story of Cal’s stay in prison and how he escaped. It does a much better job of introducing us to this world of superheroes and supervillains which Cal inhabits – if you’ll recall, one of my complains about Confessions of a D-List Supervillain was that it dropped us straight into the bug apocalypse, a major shake-up of the status quo, without bothering to first establish the status quo. So maybe the series would in fact work well when read in numbered order rather than publishing order. On the other hand, my other complaint about Confessions of a D-List Supervillain was that the writing style was kind of clumsy, particularly in action scenes. Origins of a D-List Supervillain significantly improved in that regard. So if you were to read it first, you might then wonder why the quality of the writing takes a dive in the next book. It’s an interesting conundrum.
There is, however, one major storytelling faux-pas which I cannot overlook: the book introduces a lesbian character, only to immediately kill her off. Always with the dead lesbians. Nowadays, authors feel the need to include at least one LGBTQ+ character to prove that they’re politically correct; but when it comes time to off someone, guess who’s the first character they turn to? Well, I’m mad as hell, and I’m not going to take it anymore. Henceforth, I’m instituting a -1 Dead Lesbian Penalty to my final ratings. Yeah, I’m going there. I’m sick and tired of lesbian character always getting the axe, and my ratings are going to reflect that. If you want to impress me, try doing something original and write a lesbian character who doesn’t die.
Origins of a D-List Supervillain is a good book, superior in narrative and writing quality to Confessions of a D-List Supervillain; but it suffers from having been published as a prequel rather than a proper series opener.
Final Rating: 3/5