Sodality of Malefactors

AntagonistsSuperhero teams come together in a handful of ways. For example, the collective members might be the same age (Tiny Titans) or they might be related to each other (Hawk & Dove). They might even share a similar life experience (Inhumans). Or, in the case of the Justice League of America, they could simply be thrown together haphazardly.

Most teams, however, unite because of a common goal. The Howling Commandos were drafted to fight the Axis Alliance during WWII. And 20 years later, the Avengers assembled for the first time to defeat a pest named Loki.

The same goes for supervillain teams. Like the Sinister Six, the Frightful Four, and the Legion of Super-Villains, the Astounding Antagonists joined forces for one simple reason: to smash superheroes.

“Our enemies call themselves the American Division,” says Coltan, the newest member of the Antagonists. “They’re misguided. They use their power to maintain the status quo. They ignore problems that they don’t feel like addressing.”

Coltan is right. The superheroes in Rafael Chandler’s super novel are all self-centered blowhards who have been tainted by years of privilege and celebrity (a few of these alpha turds arrogantly call themselves the Black Belt Billionaires when they’re out clubbing). They manipulate world events to suit their own agenda and they’re always looking for ways to bolster their private bank accounts. It’s the supervillain’s job to stir things up.

“The world’s a complicated place,” says Baelphegor, the strongest and scariest of the funky bunch, “and it’s not like you have a chance in Hell of solving any real problems. No one does. So you pick some people to screw with — people you hold responsible for contributing to the misery.”

Not unsurprisingly, the superheroes are actually trying to do something sneaky. And their nefarious plan gives the Protagonists a whiff of righteous vigor. It all culminates in a brutal street brawl with lots of accusations, recriminations, and payback. It’s like a giant crossover event scribbled on a napkin by James Robinson and Marv Wolfman.

The protagonists are ultimately smashed (mission accomplished!). But even in the glow of victory, the Antagonists continue to live as outlaws in their own moral gray zone. But that’s okay, says Dr. Agon, the leader of the pack: “It wasn’t the having, it was the taking, like stealing moments of joy when life wasn’t looking: the glitter of a diamond plucked from a rich girl’s finger, the sweetness of someone else’s cake, the sunshine of a world stolen from heroes.”

[The Astounding Antagonists / By Rafael Chandler / First Printing: October 2014 / ISBN: 9781502894540]

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