Aaaaaaand… Now I’m A Supervillain

A review of Natlie Walschots’ Hench (HarperCollins, 2020)

By Derek Newman-Stille

Natalie Walschots’ Hench is powerful inspiration for the reader to become a villain. Walshots takes her readers into the mind of a temp hench person, exploring what it is like to work for supervillains, but, perhaps more importantly, what it is like to be the victim of superhero violence. Anna’s temp work for supervillains isn’t glamourous and it often only includes data entry and data analysis, but it is this skill that brings her to the (dangerous) attention of the superhero community. After Anna is disabled by a superhero while he is attempting to get to a supervillian, Anna starts to crunch the numbers and explore the cost of superheroes – the property damage, the loss of life, and the health costs to civilians and hench people. The numbers are astronomical and horrifying and Anna publishes them, bringing her to the attention of Supercollider, the superhero who disabled her and wants to maintain the status quo. Buuuuut, it also brings her to the attention of one of the major supervillains and begins a new stage in her life.

Although Hench is a superhero narrative and full of the fantastical, it calls out real world systems of power and violence, bringing attention to the cost of a punitive justice system. Walschots critiques binaristic approaches to justice and engages in philosophical questions of the nature of good and evil.

Reading Hench, I am reminded that I am dangerously close to becoming a supervillain at any moment!!


To discover more about Hench, visit https://www.harpercollins.ca/9780062978578/hench/

To find out more about Natalie Walschots, visit http://nataliewalschots.com


Reviewed by Derek Newman-Stille, MA, PhD ABD (They/Them)

Belonging Takes Place Beneath the Surface

Belonging Takes Place Beneath the Surface

A review of Karleen Pendleton-Jimenez’ The Street Belongs To Us (Arsenal Pulp Press, 2021)

By Derek Newman-Stille

America is a thin veneer over a much more complex world, and in 1984 when Muscatel Avenue is torn up there are new possibilities and potentials in the mud. In The Street Belongs to Us, Karleen Pendleton Jimenez explores a street in Los Angeles that is torn up to put in sidewalks and that kids decide to make their own, building trenches, playing in the mud, and ultimately finding themselves beneath the ground. The grandmother of the main character, Alex, tells the reader “The land wants to be adored and you kids know best how to do it”, and that is what The Street Belongs to Us does, it exposes a fundamental love for the land and its potential. While digging, Alex and her friend Wolf find the deed to Aztlan, a creation of the Chicano Movement around land stolen from Mexicans by Americans. It is a deed to a place that can’t be owned, a place of stories and tales of belonging. Like Aztlan, Alex holds the stories of her people and her grandmother’s stories even though she has a conflicted identity as a Mexican American. She observes “I feel kind of ashamed of the stories she’s telling. Even though I’m part Mexican, I’m also quite a bit American. It’s like one part of my body was mean to the other”. She feels the pain of American oppression of the Latinx community in her own body.

Though Nana also warns Alex that digging up the dirt also means exposing all of the things that lay buried and Pendleton Jimenez examines the complexities of childhood experience living alongside family secrets, ideas of belonging, and notions of gender and growing up. When the ground is disturbed, Alex and Wolf see new possibilities, examining their relationships with their parents and their relationships to their own bodies. Alex begins to develop breasts and has to explore questions of whether she is a boy or a girl and whether breasts mean that she is forced to become a woman or whether there are other possibilities for her body. The Street Belongs to Us is an exploration of belonging, whether that be to a community or to one’s own body and who gets to decide how we belong. Like the ground in the story, The Street Belongs to Us unsettles, digs up, and shuffles foundations.


To find out more about The Street Belongs to Us, visit https://arsenalpulp.com/Books/T/The-Street-Belongs-to-Us

To discover more about Karleen Pendleton Jimenez, visit https://www.trentu.ca/education/faculty-and-research/full-time-faculty/karleen-pendleton-jiménez


Reviewed by Derek Newman-Stille, MA, PhD ABD (They/Them)