You know that superhero TV show on NBC a few years back that was canceled after only ten episodes due to how poorly written and cliche it was? The one that had so much potential because of all the interesting threads it started with, but then somewhere it just didn’t pan out like it should have. It was called The Cape and was about a superhero with a magic cape.
That, my friends, is how The Supervillain and Me by Danielle Banas was. It had all the potential for an interesting YA superhero/supervillain storyline, but instead, it focused on a lot of really weird elements that made it come across cliche and juvenile.
Abby Hamilton’s brother is a superhero, and while the rest of the world fangirls over his heroics, she stands in his shadow rolling her eyes. Until she’s rescued by the Iron Phantom, the city’s new supervillain and convinces her that he’s not a bad guy. Instead, he’s trying to unravel a dark secret that may put the citizens of Morriston into more danger than safety. And only Abby can help him discover the truth before it’s too late.
I don’t have a good track record with superhero novels. Most of them don’t quite capture the superhero nature that is found in comic books and blockbuster films. A lot of the time, the characters are one-dimensional and the world is a flat, theatre-esque backdrop for the story. Unfortunately, The Supervillain and Me suffered from these same reasons.
It’s not a bad book, but it’s not what I wanted out of the book. It was more along the lines of a Disney Channel movie about superheroes and villains instead of a gripping story set in a superhero world. And the whole “supervillain” thing? Garbage. The Iron Phantom isn’t actually a supervillain. Most of the book is him being framed for crimes he didn’t commit. (But I guess that’s what happens when you have a generic black costume anybody with money or a sewing machine can replicate? Like… make a logo? Do something unique to your costume or style that people can’t impersonate you.) The title is so misleading, despite how cool it sounds.
I definitely liked the premise, especially with Abby’s brother being a superhero and her trying to balance his superhero life with everybody else’s views of superheroes. It was also nice that for the most part superheroes were seen as good people in this book, instead of every story where they are vigilantes or might be bad, might be good, and citizens can’t decide or refuse to trust them despite the fact that they are saving people over and over. It was refreshing.
But there were so many cookie cutter, cliche, unnecessary elements that I found myself wishing I was reading something else. For one, the majority of the book focuses on two things. Abby being the star of her school musical (which had zero point to the whole book) and Abby trying to figure out the identity of the Iron Phantom, who happens to randomly show up in her room without warning or invitation (usually at night). She also tries to juggle her insta-y feelings for him because oh my gosh he’s got these killer green eyes and this sense of witty humor and oh, by the way he may or may not have just lit city hall on fire. The world may never know. (Well, actually the world does know.) For being a superhero book, there is a lack of superheroics happening. Pajama Sam fights more crime than these superheroes, and he’s literally wearing pajamas.
In addition, this book has so many unrealistic happenstances. And I’m not talking about the superheroes. The superheroes are actually some of the more realistic aspects of the book. I’m talking about the government forcing students to do things like get microchips embedded in their arms without their parent’s permission or for a drama teacher would have zero problem with a male lead french kissing and squeezing a girl’s butt during rehearsal. Like where was the teacher during that scene?
A lot of the book is also predictable, and I couldn’t believe it took Abby almost 200 pages to figure out who the Iron Phantom was. I basically guessed it the first time the character appeared in the book. All her inquiries and her supposed “gathering of evidence” was so stupid. While I can admire her character for standing up for what she believed and also kicking some serious butt, at times Abby’s character irritated me to no end. And there was just way too much focus on kissing and relationship stuff with a person who hasn’t told her his real name for me to enjoy.
The Supervillain and Me isn’t a bad book, but it’s just not what I wanted from a book with that title and cover. If you like a clean, straight forward story with a cute romance and a dab of generic superheroics, you might like this book. Plus, the sibling relationship in this one is great.