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.