When we last left Kyle Camden, the smartest kid in Bouring, he was still secretly plotting the downfall of Mighty Mike. Kyle is the only one who knows Mike’s secret: that Mike is really not a human kid, but arrived with the mysterious alien plasma storm. Who knows what sort of secret agenda he has? Styling himself as the Azure Avenger (but unfortunately called the Blue Freak by townspeople), Kyle only sees a few choices: expose Mike as an alien fraud, defeat him, or embarrass him enough so that he leaves willingly.
Unfortunately, in the eyes of the townspeople, that makes Kyle a villain. Oh, and in case you didn’t know — Kyle also got some superpowers himself, so that makes him a supervillain. (It’s all detailed in Archvillain, which I reviewed last year.)
Well, while Kyle knows that he isn’t the real enemy, he’s decided to go ahead and play the role, at least until he’s gotten rid of Mighty Mike. And he’s got a good plan, too … until another evil genius shows up on the scene. That’s the premise of the second book in the series: The Mad Mask.
The Mad Mask appears to be some sort of technological wizard. Never seen without his black mask and green cloak (inspired by Dr. Doom, I think), the Mad Mask is an egomaniac who refers to himself in the third person. Horrifically scarred by plasma radiation, he fashioned the mask to hide his face and has his own nefarious agenda. But he seeks out Kyle for his assistance in building Unicron, a massive robot that will free them both of Mighty Mike. Kyle, impressed by the Mad Mask’s impervious force field and teleportation device, agrees to help — after all, if this is the end of Mighty Mike, it can’t be all bad.
The second book in the Archvillain series is sharp and funny like the first. I loved getting in the mind of Kyle, the misunderstood genius, who’s only trying to help but somehow always ends up looking like the bad guy. The mysterious Mad Mask is hilarious — he’s the sort of comic book supervillain who rants and raves, even to himself. What is the extent of his powers, and what’s the mystery behind his identity?
Again, author Barry Lyga proves himself adept at working in classic superhero tropes in a clever new way. Any kid who feels misunderstood by adults will appreciate Kyle’s internal dialogue and excerpts from his secret diary. The moment when the Mad Mask is finally unmasked is hilarious and unexpected — though it’s no surprise that the Azure Avenger is still on the run from the law by the end of the book.
Disclosure: GeekDad received an advance reader copy for review purposes.