I’m new to Henchgirl, but I’ve enjoyed Kristen Gudsnuk’s all-ages graphic novel series, Making Friends, and I was interested in checking out some of her other work. This new edition of Henchgirl gave me the perfect opportunity to do just that, and I’m very glad that I picked it up!
In a city where superheroes and villains with amazing powers run rampant and the job market is less then ideal for anything non-superhero related, Mary Posa winds up taking a job as a henchgirl in order to make ends meet. It’s dangerous work and this job doesn’t even come with any health benefits, but Mary’s got to pay the bills somehow. Besides, most of the time her employer, Monsieur Butterfly, and his Butterfly Gang don’t get up to any crimes that are too heinous. Then Mary befriends an idealistic young man who’s trying to become a superhero and who wants to show her that there might be better, less villainess, options for her. At the same time, her boss sets his sights on stealing money meant for a local orphanage and Mary can’t just standby and let that happen. She leaks information to her new friend so that he can foil the plan ahead of time and the orphanage is saved! Unfortunately, Monsieur Butterfly doesn’t appreciate being double-crossed, and he launches a furious search for both the hero who foiled his plan and the mole in his organization who tipped him off!
Henchgirl is a parody of superhero stories that’s hilarious and light-hearted, except when it’s being dark and thoughtful. One minute you’ll be laughing about a character’s ridiculous and impractical superpower or some little gag in the background of a scene, and then the next minute you’ll be gasping at a shocking (and a kinda gruesome) death scene. This comic is an irreverent good time but be ready for the story to take some surprising turns.
Nothing illustrates this dichotomy of tone better then the lead character. Mary is sweet and basically good-hearted, but she’s also immature and a bit too willing to take the easy way out. Despite her flaws, or perhaps because of them, she’s loveable and easy to relate to, but, as the story progresses, something happens that nudges Mary in the direction of the dark side and her lack of maturity – and her long buried insecurities – starts making her reckless and even callous. As she becomes ruled by her worst instincts, Mary’s life starts to go off the rails, but even when she’s at her worst, Mary remains funny and too silly to dislike. I can’t help but continue to root for her to turn the situation around and go back to being her old, harmlessly goofy self. The story of this henchgirl’s decent into ridiculous villainy, and her eventual redemption, is a fun and compelling read and I really enjoyed Mary and her friends’ adventures.
This expanded edition of Henchgirl apparently contains 16 pages of new material. From what I can tell, based on the shift in the art style, these additional pages come at the end of the story and mostly serve as an epilogue, helping to wrap up some loose-ends and show where all of the characters end up. These are a welcome addition, as they offer some more conclusive endings for some of the characters and I was glad to see them get their happy endings. The book now stops rather abruptly, however, and I felt that it could have used another extra page or two to end things at a more natural feeling stopping point. Regardless, if you’re a Henchgirl fan, I think you’ll want to check this extended edition out so you can get a look at these new pages.
If you’re new to Henchgirl, this comic is worth picking up, especially if you’re a fan of superheroes. There are also tons of references to magical girl characters that anime fans are sure to get a kick out of.
Final score: 8.5 out of 10
What do you think of Henchgirl? Are you a first-time reader, like me, or are you returning to it for this new edition? Let me know in the comments!
For more information on this series, visit Dark Horse Comics website.
Be sure to check out my reviews of some of Kristen Gudsnuk’s other works:
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