What if it turned out that the people who are supposed to be superheroes are doing more harm than good? And what if villains aren’t entirely evil? These are the questions posed in Hench, the fabulous new book from Natalie Zina Walschots, a Canadian poet and journalist. The main character, Anna, is a temp worker who does clerical work for supervillains. It’s not much, but it’s a living, even if it doesn’t provide health insurance. Then a job goes wrong, Anna is critically injured by a superhero, and during her long recovery she spends her time calculating the collateral damage done by all the superheroes in the world. Her passion gets her a job working for Leviathan, the most famous of the supervillains, and as she works her way up through the ranks of his organization, Anna has to grapple with what it means to wield power and what the personal cost of revenge is.
This book has a ton of attitude: it’s snarky and a little angry, but funny too. Walschots pokes fun at superhero tropes, millennial office culture, and the naivete of the general public. There is a cast of strong diverse and inclusive characters, many of whom could probably have a spinoff book of their own. And Anna herself is very relatable: as you follow her on her journey from little cog in the machine to criminal mastermind, you alternately root for her and cringe at her choices. There’s also plenty of action as the superheroes and villains engage in comic-book-style battles.
Hench is clever, entertaining, and downright fun to read. If you’re a comic book fan, this book is right up your alley. If you’re not, try it anyway – it’s a great way to step out of your comfort zone.