Supervillain teams are like bands, most of them are born live and die without anyone knowing or caring that they exist. You’re heard of AIM and Hydra and the Sinister Six and maybe the Masters of Evil and a few others but there have been hundreds, thousands, of other teams that came into existence and then died without you ever knowing about them.
What happens is some dirty dingus Mcgee and his stinky pants drinking buddies touch a crashed alien spaceship out in the woods, get superpowers, call themselves the Magic Razors or Easy Riders or some other dumbshit name and they pull off a couple of bank-robberies before some D-list hero, or a local guy that you’ve never even heard of to be on a list, kicks their ass and the government de-powers them. And that’s all she wrote for the Power Partnership.
There’s an entertaining podcast where they summarize these skirmishes, Small Town Heroes.
One of these groups that you’ve never heard of is the Barrel Brigade. They’re unique in the pantheon of unknown supervillain teams because they’re been around for years, the reason you’ve never heard of them is because 90% of their members die and the jobs they pull are so low-rent no one cares when they succeed.
The Barrel Brigade is so called because they’re the bottom of the barrel. The deal is that if you’re a villain and you’re so busted out that no one else will work with you and you’re broke and desperate you can sign on with the Barrel Brigade. The guy in charge will pay you 5 or 10 grand to hire on for a dangerous shitty jobs no one else wants. The idea is that either you’ll get enough seed money to try and get back on your feet as proper villain or die. Either way, problem solved.
It’s like that movie Suicide Squad only it’s real. There’s a guy with a magic slingshot who’s such a loser that he’s become kind of famous because he’s worked for the Barrel Brigade three times and is still alive to tell the tale. Not famous enough that I remember his name, but people know about the slingshot guy from the Barrel Brigade.
The Barrel Brigade is curated by a guy called Jack. The lore on Jack is that he’s a time-displaced samurai from whenever samurai were a thing. I want to say the 1600s? Normally I call bullshit on supposed time-travelers, they’re usually just some dork with a clock on their jumpsuit or a historian who’s pretending to be an ancient god-hero, but I think Jack is the real thing. I’ve spent some time with him and he just doesn’t seem like he belongs in this time.
Jack as far as I can tell is actually a good leader and planner, he does everything he can to give the people under his commend the best chance to success, but he doesn’t pretend it’s anything other than a fool’s quest.
I asked him why he does this instead of getting hooked up with a real supervillain outfit worthy of his skills and he told me that back in Samurai land-time on three different occasions he had been a commander in a war where he won every battle he was in charge of but his still side lost the war anyway. He decided that he was cursed and had to do this Barrel Brigade thing to satisfying a demon or a ghost or a spirit king. I got lost in what he was talking about at that point. Cultural differences.
I had decided that I wanted to pull my own jobs, namely stealing a SHIELD Helicarrier, and the Barrel Brigade seemed like the right group for me to hire.
Finding Helen was not easy. Not only because I didn’t know her name at first or what she looked like beyond those unforgettable eyes, but also because as I came to learn she was actively trying not to be found. It took a while, but I figured out that she was changing her name and her persona with every group she joined.
She was doing the opposite of everyone else. A villain doesn’t don’t put on a retina-searing yellow and red skinsuit with a rocket pack because they want to fly under the radar. Being a supervillain is all about presentation, cultivating a killer rep. More than making money sometimes. Maybe even most of the time. What she was doing was the opposite, she was trying to remain unknown. I was fascinated by her. More than I already was I mean.
I spent hour and hours scrolling through all the female villains on all the apps. She wasn’t on any of them. I reached out to Boomerang, assuming since she was on his side in that fracas with Rabbit he knew her but I could tell right away that he was trying to work me so I hung up on him. It’s a real problem with supervillains, everyone’s trying to get over on you. Makes trust hard.
I combed through thousands of videos online of unknown female villains in action, and I saw her a couple times, I’d know those eyes anywhere (and that butt if we’re being honest) but by the time I figured out where the video actually was taken and which group she was with at the time she would already have moved on.
I was chasing a ghost.
The only plan I could come up with was to join as many groups as I could and just hope that she was part of it too. After all, there’s not that many supervillain groups out there right?
It ended up working too, just not the way I thought. None of the groups I joined up with we were very successful but I always managed to get away. Since I can heal I have no problem throwing myself off a building or ripping off an arm to get away or whatever I need to do to make it out.
But the result of being the only person who didn’t get arrested or killed a bunch of times was that I was getting a bad reputation, people were saying that I wasn’t a team player or that I was just bad luck. I even heard a few whispers that I was some kind of sleeper agent for the Avengers!
After a while no one wanted me on their team anymore even though I have pretty good superpowers thanks to Extremis. Cobra turned me on to a kind of last chance brigade. Some Silver Samurai knock off puts together jobs for people that need to rebuild their cred in the villain community. I was only halfway listening to him until he said that they were putting together a team for some woman that no one had ever heard of.
I don’t know how I knew, but I knew that it was Helen.