I'm exceptionally glad he did.
This is a novel written for those of us who grew up on superhero comic books, and who still have a nostalgic connection to their unabashed pulp sensibilities. Unlike so many authors who have tried (and failed) to make these kinds of stories serious and respectable, Phipps remains true to the spirit of the comics. This really does read like an 80s/90s indie comic (The Tick), crossed with a cartoon homage (Darkwing Duck), with a nod to TV both classic (Batman) and retro (Greatest American Hero), and updated for contemporary R-rated cinematic sensibilities (Deadpool).
The Rules of Supervillainy is as funny as it is violent, and as clever as it is imaginative. All the superhero tropes are here, and the characters are only too aware of them. What makes it work, of course, is how Phipps twists some of those tropes and throws other ones entirely out the window. Gary is an ordinary man who has always dreamed of being a supervillain. He's not necessarily a bad guy. In fact, he's a doting husband, a good friend, and a reasonable villain as Merciless - the Supervillain Without Mercy! All he wants to do is get rich, rule the world, and punish those who get in his way. Really, is that too much to ask? Sure, his methods might be a bit suspect, and he really needs to learn not to have awkward conversations with his sentient cloak, but in his defense he's only had his powers for a few days . . . and even then, only by accident.
The supporting cast of characters are fantastic here as well, heroes and villains both. I loved the relationships with his wife (who was previously involved in a kinky lesbian relationship with The Black Witch), and his two ex-girlfriends (one of whom is his sexy new hench-wench), and his Nightwalker cloak is one of the funniest consciences I've ever come across. Even better, however, is Phipps' willingness to go where comic books have never gone, and to take superpowers to the extreme. Free of the restraints of the Comics Code Authority (or concerned parents), he can kill people (permanently, I might add) with impunity, through some rather ingenious methods. I don't want to spoil it, but there's a scene involving Gary's car keys that's sure to both amuse and disgust.
If you're a fan of comic books and are up for something a bit more mature, then give The Rules of Supervillainy a read. There actually is a solid story behind it all, one that ultimately brings Gary to the superprison on the moon, and some decent character development. It has it's serious moments as well, and some legitimate conversations about ethics and morality interspersed among the jokes about rules. Overall, it's execution just about perfect, and has me excited to dive into The Games of Supervillainy next.
Kindle Edition, 242 pages
Published June 8th 2015 by Amber Cove Publishing
Disclaimer: I received a complimentary ARC of this title from the publisher in exchange for review consideration. This does not in any way affect the honesty or sincerity of my review.