Today, the supervillain as the protagonist isn't such a flabbergasting storytelling device. By now, it's been done to death. But it still makes for a fun read, doesn't it? And, come to think, I don't know that Kristen Brand's The White Knight & Black Valentine series falls perfect into this category.
Maybe what I like best about this series is the strong sense of family that the author threads in. It's a mismatched pair that somehow worked out a happy ending. Dave Del Toro, the superstrong, nigh invulnerable White Knight, is a once revered do-gooder, that is, until he married the telepathic supervillainess, Valentina Belmonte, a.k.a. Black Valentine - "Val" to her friends and fam. In South Florida, Dave and Val had forged a good marriage, had even raised a good kid, their teenaged daughter Elisa who had inherited both their powers.
Dave had been retired for years, his superhero shine dimmed by his supposed association with evil. Val, reformed crook, still occasionally pines for her heyday of nefarious activity, but she's content being a loving mom and wife.
Some plot spoilers.
Kill Them All is the fourth and penultimate volume in the series. It picks up roughly a month after the events of Almost Invincible. Dave is still recovering from the injuries he sustained from his theme park tussle with Bloodbath. Doesn't stop them from setting out on holiday from Miami to Key West, to snorkeling - where Elisa fails to snag a selfie with a shark - to a fine outing on a boat - where they get ambushed.
Seems the pattern calls for Dave and Val to take turns with the first person narration. Villainous, the second volume, features Black Valentine as our point-of-view character. Kill Them All is Valentine's turn again, and it makes sense, seeing as how Dave has borne the brunt of the ambush. Dave is back in the hospital, this time in a coma, and it's not certain if he'll wake up. Can you imagine how pissed Val is? An interesting element surfaces now as we observe Valentine cut a swath as she goes seeking unholy vengeance, yet trying her durndest to keep her sh-- together. Yes, Dave's morality has affected her and how she goes about things, but only to an extent. What really keeps her from murderizing people willy-nilly is that she knows if she gets caught out, she loses her family.
I've enjoyed reading about Dave and Val's respective philosophies. Val's is probably more interesting because she presents a skewed, slippery slope sort of perspective while Dave exhibits the more typical hero mindset. See Val pool all her resources, from her live-in "help" to Dave's ex-sidekick Freezefire - and I'm glad Dave and Freezefire are friends again - to her contacts in the underworld. I wish Val's sister, Bianca - a.k.a. Lady Nightmare - had gotten more "screen time." Unlike the "rehabilitated" Val, Bianca is very much a supervillainess, but, hey, when her sister calls for help, she comes running. Along that line, I also wish Val and Dave's teenager had been in the story more. But a very concerned Val relegates Elisa to the sideline where the kid is kept busy fretting about her disintegrating love life.
When it comes to the fighty fights, it's an adjustment in expectations depending on whether it's Dave or Val we're tracking. Dave is a hands-on, two-fisted, in-your-face fighter whereas Val, with her telepathy, is more of a distance combatant who messes with your head. Honestly, I'd rather take Dave on. Val is wicked scary and vindictive and still nurses a smidge of that villain gene. Anyway, the author knows how to stage a good scrap.
I get it that some folks are salty that this one ends on a whopping cliffhanger. If it's any comfort, in her afterword, Kristen Brand promises one final book in the series to wrap things up, and since she did a mean thing by serving up such a teaser ending, she vows to have the fifth book out sometime in December. I'm guessing that one'll be from Dave's point-of-view. Dude needs to step up. He'd lazed around in bed for most of this book.
Because you looked curious, here's a list of supervillain books I've read. I know I'm forgetting some. But I highly, honest-to-gosh recommend the top three on the list. The others range from pretty good to okay.
- Jim Bernheimer's Confessions of a D-List Supervillain
- Andrew Seiple's DIRE: Born (The Dire Saga, Book 1)
- Drew Hayes' Forging Hephaestus (Villains' Code Book 1)
- Rafael Chandler's The Astounding Antagonists
- Joel Burdick's No Master Plan Here (Madness Runs in the Family, Book 1)
- Michael Crider's Good Intentions: A Supervillain Story
- Richard Roberts' Please Don't Tell My Parents I'm a Supervillain
- C.T. Phipps' The Rules of Supervillainy (The Supervillainy Saga Book 1)
- M.K. Gibson's Villains Rule (The Shadow Master Book 1)
- David Reiss' Fid's Crusade (The Chronicles of Fid Book 1)
- Mia Archer's Villains Don't Date Heroes! (Night Terror Book 1)
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