BookHound
Reviews and Recommendations by Mel Odom, Professional Writer

ARCHVILLAIN by Barry Lyga

These days superheroes are popping out everywhere in our media. We’ve got television shows like No Ordinary Family and the upcoming The Cape series, and 2011 will be a bumper crop of superheroes flying to the big screen.

Personally, I can’t wait.

So my Spidey senses have been more alert than usual, seeking out the superheroic reads. However, I missed a perfect little gem that popped out onto the shelves in October. Thankfully I’ve since rectified that mistake and am now taking steps to make sure you don’t make the same mistake.

Barry Lyga’s Archvillain is just wonderful storytelling. The thing that makes this book remarkable is how deftly Lyga takes his readers into the viewpoint of the bad guy in the story. Let me correct that. Kyle Camden doesn’t actually set out to be the villain. It just kind of happens to him. The way bad things will to any kid his age who’s trying to find his way in the world.

Kyle’s whole mission in life is to try to get people to stop taking themselves so seriously. Unfortunately, he doesn’t know when to back off his mission and stay in safe territory. He’s been in hot water off and on throughout his entire life.

The night he got a bath in some strange kind of plasma that may be from another planet just made things worse. Now Kyle is super smart, invulnerable to almost everything, and can fly. No one can stop him from doing what he wants to.

Except his own innate ability to screw things up. I laughed out loud at some of the things Kyle set his sights on (Pants Laser? To blast the pants off his nemesis, Mighty Mike? C’mon, that there’s funny!)

The night he got his bath, another boy showed up with superpowers as well. No one knows where Mighty Mike came from, and he’s got amnesia (so he says) and can’t remember anything of his past. Kyle suspects Mighty Mike is an alien from another planet who’s bent on controlling the earth if he can. The problem is that as smart as Kyle is, that’s about as dumb as Mighty Mike is. Mighty Mike has no real intellect to speak of, yet he always gets acknowledged for being a hero – even when some of the things he’s being given credit for were done by the Azure Avenger (Kyle). His bad luck shows up again when no one remembers his cool name and instead start calling him the Blue Freak.

But Kyle devotes his energies to debunking the hero worship the community turns on Mighty Mike, and there are huge laughs along the way. Even as smart as he is, Kyle can’t think of everything. He alters his parents’ brain, creates a smart-alecky sidekick, and even cobbles together a few other devices (like Mimi).

The book really struck a chord with me regarding Superman’s relationship with Lex Luthor. Kyle almost sounds a lot like Luthor, jealous, wary, paranoid, and egotistical, but somehow Lyga pulls all that together and makes Kyle loveable. I loved the familiar ring the story had too, though, and thought the author had set everything up wonderfully.

I read the book in a couple sittings. My 13 year old, on my recommendation, read the book yesterday. Couldn’t put it down. This is one of those books you give to reluctant readers (especially boys) and watch them crawl into a fun world that they’ll want more of.

Thankfully, this is the first book of a series. Lyga promises more volumes to come. And he’s hooked me because I really want to know who the villain truly is and where Mighty Mike came from.

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