Comic Book Villains (2003) Movie Review

“Comic Book Villains,” the directorial debut by comic book writer James Robinson, starts out with an excellent idea, only to tumble into the abyss where all lazy screenwriters reach into when they run out of material and have no idea how to end their clever film. Thus, the cleverness is replaced by mundane violence, and the first half of what might have been a clever film becomes moot.

The world of “Villains” is comic books. The movie’s characters are concerned (or is that obsessed?) with collecting comics. For such people the Holy Grail is a stash of old comics that hold within it all the valuable comics of days gone by — or, in comic lingo, the Golden Age. It also doesn’t hurt that these books are immensely valuable on the open market, and can bring in thousands of dollars a pop. Of course, finding one of them in mint (perfect) condition is like finding a Picasso at a yard sale. It’s next to impossible, but when one does find them they are what legends are made off. Legends in the comic world, anyway.

DJ Qualls (“The New Guy”) narrates the film, about a 30-something comic book storeowner name Raymond (Donal Logue) who becomes obsessed with possessing a group of comics once owned by an old woman’s deceased son. The son apparently was a big collector and had collected himself quite a stash before his untimely death. The mother is unwilling to sell the comics because it reminds her of her son, who never lived his “true” life because of his obsession with his collection. Also attempting to garner the woman’s favor are Norman and Judy, a married couple who owns a rival comic store. When all efforts to purchase the comics prove fruitless, things turn bloody, and “Comic Book Villains” becomes unwatchable.

For its first 50 minutes, “Villains” is an entertaining comedy that delves into the niche realm of comic book collecting. Donal Logue’s Raymond represents the ultimate comic book geek: 30-something, disheveled, lonely (re: no girlfriend or wife), and still living at home. Raymond’s life revolves around his store, which is falling apart at the seams, and his competition with Norman and Judy, who owns a fancier and cleaner store. To Raymond, the married couple are “dabblers” — that is, they dabble in comics to make money and has no real love for the art. In Raymond’s world, the couple are worst than Nazis.

Had the film stuck to the above formula and concentrated on the inner workings of comic books and the guys who practically lives at these stores debating various pointless subjects, “Villains” would have drastically improved. As it stands, writer/director James Robinson gets the Tarantino bug and turns the proceedings into a bloodbath, and it all plays out as standard and, to be frank, rather dull.

True, the comic book world is not interesting to many people, but it’s certainly more interesting than watching a good film degrade into a 3rd rate “Reservoir Dogs,” especially in light of the fact that “Dogs” was a 2nd rate John Woo film to begin with.

James Robinson (director) / James Robinson (screenplay)
CAST: DJ Qualls …. Archie
Donal Logue …. Raymond
Michael Rapaport …. Norman
Natasha Lyonne …. Judy


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