The Astounding Antagonists by Rafael Chandler is a twist on the familiar story of superheroes fighting on the side of good, which instead focuses on the villains of the world. While the concept of antiheroes is nothing new, Chandler makes an interesting and well-written entry into the genre, one that fans of all kinds of superhero comics will enjoy.
The book flips the idea of superheroes and villains on its head. The superheroes really aren’t those that one would want to follow, and the villains aren’t quite as bad as they seem. In the opening of the book, villainess Motley (my personal favorite) is found working in a shelter for battered women, where she regularly takes care of men seeking out their wives who have left them and their abusive behavior. Even though the villains are quite likeable at times, they do still have flaws that come out during the course of the story. The blur of good and evil is incredible, and the author gives readers an intimate look at all the main characters. At times, I felt bad for the villains and rooted for them, which is completely against my nature. To me, this is the sign of well-developed and interesting characters.
The writing in the book is superb. Words and sentences flow so effortlessly that it pulls the reader into the book and story alongside the characters. The writer implements shorter chapters and quick phrases to speed up the pace of the book, which is exactly what a reader wants from this type of story. It’s a beautiful thing when a writer can pull together humor, sadness, euphoria, and dismay all into one book, and Chandler does just that. It is truly a rollercoaster of emotions, but one that readers will love to take again and again.
No matter if a reader is more into superheroes than villains, or even if they don’t find comics to be their normal type of reading, this book will satisfy on all levels.