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Sure, super heroes and villains get all the headlines. The press puts their names up front and center. But, what about all the people who toil behind the scenes, providing the support that allows the big names to do their thing? You know, the HENCHMEN? That is the story that Natalie Zina Walschots delves into in her novel Hench, and she has written a wonderful rollercoaster ride of a tale.
Hench follows the line of Anna, a data analyst who works temp jobs of various super villains. It is anonymous, back office work. Then one day, her employer, Electric Eel, brings her along on a job, something she sees as an affirmation of how well she is doing. During the action, Anna runs into, literally, the Supercollider, the worlds “greatest” hero, and she is severely injured. The injury changes her life, and her view of the world. Anna sets off to show that heroes are in fact a detriment to society. Her research brings about more attention, and becomes the center of the story.
Ms. Walschots has put together a tale that explores the psychology of super heroes in much the same way that Amazon’s The Boys has also. What does it take to be hero, or a villain? How does that adulation affect a person? What role do heroes and villains play in creating each other? And what role does society play in creating both? What are the emotional and financial effects of “heroic acts” on society at large? These questions help Hench turn the iconography of heroes on its head and Ms. Walschots explores it very nicely.
Hench is a wonderful journey, although it is probably of much more interest to those of us who love speculative fiction, comics, and the idea of super heroes and villains.