I’ve had a lot of time to think lately. Like many of you, I’m not a huge fan of too much mental downtime, though I would love if my brain would let me spend a little more time sleeping. I’m surviving, though, in part by deep diving into old manga, in part by changing careers (somepony just submitted a nonfiction book proposal and is still waiting to hear about that horror novella), and in part by keeping up with these comics A–Z challenges. So far we’ve done emotions, the arts, heroes, and folklore/mythology. Where to next?
I think the villains deserve a chance to shine. After all, they’re the ones who keep things interesting, aren’t they? What fun would the heroes be if they didn’t have anyone to challenge them?
U: Ugetsu Murata
Given Vol. 4 by Natsuki Kizu
Sometimes the villains who do the most damage aren’t aren’t the ones who throw the hardest punches. Bruises heal eventually, but the same can’t always be said for the harm done by baddies who toy with their target’s emotions. And it isn’t just the “hero” who gets hurt; that sort of damage has a way of rippling outward and smacking into everyone the hero touches, sometimes taking them down with him.
Whether or not Ugetsu ever loved Akihiko is a moot point. Whether or not Akihiko loves Ugetso or is simply obsessed with him is a moot point. The point is that now (whenever story now is) Ugetsu enjoys making Akihiko sit, stay, heel. He thinks it’s fun to unravel Akihiko and then snap him back on a choke collar. To change the rules without notice and then change them again. To build a world on fault lines, smash tectonic plates together, stabilize, and then incite another earthquake.
He knows Akihiko doesn’t have anywhere else to go. He knows Akihiko doesn’t want to go anywhere else. He knows Akihiko needs him.
He counts on it. He gets off on it. And considering there might be collateral damage? Well, that’s entirely beneath him.
Willful cruelty is villainy of the worst kind and it isn’t a good luck on anyone. Not even pretty anime boys.
V: Ventress, Asajj
Omnibus: Clone Wars Volume 3: The Republic Falls by Haden Blackman, Miles Lane, John Ostrander, Brian Ching, Nicola Scott
Asajj Ventress is one of the best
villains characters to come out of the animated Star Wars properties. Period. She’s strong, she’s smart, she’s a survivor, and she has a Zuko-level redemption arc which, if you’ve been with us for a while, you know is one of the highest compliments I give.
She is also very firmly in the “Magneto was right,” camp, which is where most of my favorite villains live. You may question their methods, but their intentions? Their logic? You can’t fault it.
As the Padawan of a semi-rogue Jedi, Ventress learned early to see the fault lines in the Order. And Order that abandoned her when her Master was killed, leaving her to survive on her own. She survived the Sith as well and then the massacre of her people. She survived Obi-Wan and she survived Maul. She became a bounty hunter and she survived that too.
It was Asajj Ventress who taught Ahsoka Tano that between the Light and the Dark there were swaths of gray and that it was possible to choose your own path in the Force. That while the men bickered and lied and murdered, women could find another way.
She deserved a better death than the one she was written so, in my head canon, she’s still alive, kicking ass and brooking no bullshit across the galaxy.
W: Waller, Amanda
Suicide Squad #67 by Gail Simone, John Ostrander, Jim Calafiore, Jason Wright, Steve Wands, and Sean Ryan
Amanda Waller is a badass.
A widow who escaped Chicago after her husband and two of her children were murdered, this brilliant woman worked her way up from nothing to become a Congressional aid and it was during her tenure in that position she discovered the existence of two incarnations of the Suicide Squad. Studying up on both, she combined their strongest elements and proposed a third version to the White House; not only was her plan approved, Waller was put in charge.
She obviously has no qualms about working with the worst of the worst, nor does she hesitate to blow their heads off if they step out of line. Literally. With bombs. Implanted in their skulls. She always gets the job done, however, and she’ll wear the hell out of a power suit doing it. Looks better than Bruce Wayne in Batman: The Animated Series doing it too. Alfred wishes she would hire him.
Does Waller also work with the heroes? Sure, when it suits her. But only when it suits her. She does what she wants and you’re never quite sure what she’s going to do next.
That’s the sign of a great villain: three and a half decades on and she can still surprise you.
We’ll wrap up this A-Z next week. Where to next? Botanicals? Beverages? Magical objects? Spells? Tarot cards? The possibilities are endless? If there’s something you’d like to see as an A–Z parade, hit us up on Twitter @BookRiot!