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