Wired.com’s GeekDad blog (Nov. 21, 2010)
There’s a new evil mastermind on the block…. What sets Archvillain apart is that—at least in this first book — Kyle never thinks of himself as the bad guy. …for the right audience, I think Archvillain sets up the series nicely and it’ll be fun to see where Lyga takes Kyle and Mighty Mike next. Wired: A misunderstood middle-schooler with a boosted intellect = lots of fun hearing from the villain’s point of view. Read the complete review.
Publishers Weekly (Sept. 20, 2010)
Comic book fans in particular will appreciate this clever origin story, first in a new series. Twelve-year-old prankster Kyle is making mischief at the middle school football field the night a plasma storm falls to earth. After being “bathed in the energy of the storm,” he gains amazing superpowers, like heightened intelligence and the ability to fly. He later learns that a boy was found after the storm. Everyone in town assumes this stranger is “a normal kid with superpowers and amnesia,” anointing “Mighty Mike” a hero after he uses his powers to extinguish a fire and save kids’ lives. But as his memories of the plasma storm return, jealous Kyle is suspicious of the do-gooder’s motives, believing it his duty “to expose him for what he is and drive him away.” Lyga (Goth Girl Rising) laces his story with ample humor, from the persnickety AI sidekick Kyle makes from his iPod to his failed Pants Laser prank. Readers will find plenty to ponder, from guessing Mike’s true motivations to debating whether Kyle is a hero–or a villain in the making.
School Library Journal (Oct. 2010)
Sixth-grader Kyle is smart, popular, and the planner of high-quality pranks. Then an encounter with a mysterious “space plasma” leaves him with cosmic intellect, super-strength, and the ability to fly. Kyle loves his new skills, but decides it’s safest to keep them under wraps. However, the plasma has brought something else as well–a strange boy whom Kyle strongly suspects is an alien. Mighty Mike has superpowers too–but he isn’t shy about exercising them in public. Mike quickly becomes a sensation with adults as well as kids, even though his good deeds don’t always go smoothly. Kyle resents Mike taking over his top-dog status and suspects that the newcomer may have more sinister schemes in mind. He plans a super prank to expose him, but things get disastrously out of hand. There is a subtle underlying message about perception vs. reality. Kyle is not a particularly admirable character. He is self-centered and frequently uses his newfound powers to manipulate people. Much of his vaunted popularity seems to rest on his ability to humiliate others, especially in setting up grudge pranks on request. His crowd is quick to switch allegiance when a new sensation comes along. The author takes some sly digs at popular culture as well. The question of Mike’s true identity is left unresolved. Is he an earnest, if somewhat naïve superhero or are Kyle’s rather cynical suspicions on track? Who is the good guy and who is really the archvillain? Tune in next time….
Kirkus (Sept. 1, 2010)
Twelve-year-old Kyle Camden was an intelligent prankster before getting caught in a plasma storm (NOT a meteor shower) late one night while setting up a practical joke. Now he’s super-intelligent and super-strong, and he can fly. Unfortunately, the plasma storm gave similar powers (and amnesia) to “Mike,” another 12-year-old, who’s a stranger in town. Mike becomes “Mighty Mike,” a superhero (in a cape no less), as well as the talk of the town and school. Kyle decides Mike must be shown for the dolt–or alien–he is. Kyle’s pranks (in disguise as the Azure Avenger) go horribly wrong, and to the locals Kyle’s alter ego appears an archvillain. Will the town, especially best friend Mairi, ever see the truth of the matter? Kyle shares in the telling of his tale through “deciphered” secret journal entries, and the whole is good, snide fun. However, Lyga’s first for a younger audience leaves too much unresolved, even for a series kickoff. Less a series opener than the first part of a longer single work, this offers too much setup, too little story.
Booklist (Sept. 15, 2010)
When Kyle Camden comes to after something fishy happens during a night plasma storm, he feels stronger, faster, smarter. As he already considers himself quite the supergenius (devoted to showing folks how dumb they are), he now feels even better about how great he is. That’s until Mighty Mike, a kid who mysteriously appeared right around the same time as that plasma storm, shows up and annoyingly starts flying around, saving every day of the week. Kyle’s convinced he is an alien, and he sets out to defrock the caped imposter by donning a costume of his own and embarrassing him in public. Motivated almost entirely by jealousy and petty spite, Kyle is a far cry from a sympathetic character—in fact, many kids will see nothing more of his swelled head than a most swirly-worthy target. But he plays the antihero part with comic aplomb, and Lyga displays a nice grasp of superhero tropes (especially the gadgetry, with radiation- dampening antennas, brain-wave manipulators, and the ilk) that middle-grade boys should flock to with much enthusiasm.
The Trades.com (Oct. 7, 2010)
Barry Lyga delivers a middle-school Smallville, if it were told from Lex Luthor’s perspective. Archvillain is a fun read, for a number of reasons. And while Lyga doesn’t hide anything from the readers about who Mighty Mike is, it’s never explicitly stated — other than through Kyle — that his motives are anything other than altruistic. This leaves plenty of room open for post-reading discussion about character motivations, and who’s really on the side of right (or wrong). Read the complete review.
The Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books (Oct. 7, 2010)
Kyle’s already burdened—he must support his reputation by pulling increasingly creative pranks, he’s terrifically (if sometimes uncomfortably superficially) popular, and he’s surrounded by adults who don’t recognize his brilliance. After his exposure to an unusual plasma storm gives him extraordinary intelligence and brings a weird kid to town, Kyle’s got even more on his plate. He tries to tell everyone that the kid is an alien, but they are blinded by the newcomer’s superhero abilities and staunch morality. He tries to inform people how they could improve themselves, but they seem uninterested. Finally, Kyle tries to play the ultimate prank on the kid now dubbed “Mighty Mike,” but instead he gets pegged as a villain (and, even more humiliating, called The Blue Freak instead of his chosen name The Azure Avenger) when his big plans go awry. It’s enough to make a relatively good kid go bad (especially since folks think he is anyway). The glimpses into a small town upended by the presence of two supernatural individuals are warmly presented, capturing a setting where Mike and Kyle can truly face off with little intervention. Unfortunately, Kyle is deeply unsympathetic, which works nicely to set him up as the villain he claims to not want to be but does little in terms of making readers care about his disappointments. In addition, the pacing is uneven, with a great deal of build-up and a rushed final battle scene, the long-awaited payoff for dealing with Kyle’s arrogance. In spite of the issues, young superhero fans will find this an intriguing and amusing glimpse into how sudden powers can, in spite of all efforts, lead to anything but exalted status.
Examiner.com (Jan. 11, 2012)
The narrative is crisp and clean and makes sure we understand Kyle’s thought processes along the way, even as we realize they may not be wholly sane. Lyga has proven himself a master of teenage characterization in his young adult novels and he shows equal skill with this shorter more briskly paced novel…. Archvillain is still one of the best super powered novels aimed at young readers in a long, long time. Read the complete review.
Archvillain is a fun superhero read that will challenge boys to look differently at the battle of good versus evil. How can you decide which is which, when both sides are trying to do the right thing? Read the complete review.