Four teens and one preteen of disparate backgrounds find themselves forcibly recruited into a league of super-villains in this pallid series opener.
They are plucked from lives that range from fairly unsatisfying to downright unpleasant and taken to the secret headquarters of the League of Heroes’ sworn enemies, the Vindico. There, the super-villains use a variety of predictable tactics (humiliation, terror, the promise of power) to mold the unlikely kids into protégés. Though each kid has a separate potential superpower, they bond enough, given the bizarre circumstances, to work together against their mentors when one of them is threatened. What could be an enjoyable comic-book romp is fatally hamstrung by the author's regrettable tendency to tell, not show. The third-person narration shifts perspective from kid to kid and occasionally to the villains, a tactic that should develop distinct characters but here does not. With a couple of notable exceptions (a sarcastic-but-charismatic older boy virtually abandoned by his mother and a computer-genius girl reared in an unloving home), the kids’ back stories are largely uncompelling. Giving readers access to the thoughts and plots of the super-villains serves to leach rather than build tension, and a credibility-straining series of double-crosses causes the climax to drag rather than thrill. Finally, the super-villains’ motive for villainy underwhelms, resulting in huge suspension-of-disbelief problems.
For real super-villain fun, skip this and go back to Catherine Jinks’ Evil Genius (2007) and sequels. (Adventure. 10-14)