Hench by Adam Beechen and Manny Bello
AIT Planet Lar, 2004
A guy missing the glory days of being a college football star tries working as a supervillain’s henchman for quick cash to pay his son’s medical bills. The adrenaline rush keeps him coming back. He ends up doing time and losing his family, but he can’t quit. He talks about the pros and cons of working with different villains: sexual harassment, radiation, craziness, that kind of thing.
Its cool charcoal drawings pay homage to famous comic covers.
Gene recommended this when I told him I was writing a story about henchpersons. (Mine isn’t going to be this dark — I’m writing a romcom.)
Gene: Adam Beechen wrote some of the best Teen Titans Go! comics from the original (and far far better) series based on the original (and far far better) cartoon.
Laser Moose and Rabbit Boy by Doug Savage
Andrews McMeel Publishing, 2016
Sarah: A moose that can shoot lasers from his eyes and his rabbit friend take on aliens, a mutant aquabear, and mechasquirrel. The woods will never be the same! The silliness is just perfect for middle grade readers — it’s got a similar tone to the comics-within-comics in Captain Underpants, but with bolder color illustrations. With the humor and moose content, I would pair this with Daniel Pinkwater’s books.
Gene: I loved this book, too. At times it’s totally berserk, like when the moose accidentally shoots the legs off a deer. The resulting Frankendeer was unexpected, but no weirder than the rest of the book.
The Visible Man by Chuck Klosterman
Austin therapist Victoria Vick gets a strange new client, Y_____, who initially is only willing to speak to her over the phone, though he eventually comes to her office. He can make himself invisible thanks to military technology stolen from a former workplace. His odd demands increase and his stories become more and more disturbing. He uses this ability to spy on strangers in their homes. And he thinks he can find out some vitally important information about humanity by seeing how people act when they think they are alone. But he often intervenes, unseen, in destructive ways.
Y____’s voice perfectly captures the sort of creepy narcissistic mansplainer that you suspect could quickly escalate to dangerous behavior. (Ladies, I’m betting you know what I’m talking about.) Klosterman includes pop culture and music in his descriptions in a way that’s really satisfying rather than annoying and dated: Y_____ misremembers singer/songwriter Daniel Johnston’s name at a critical part of one of his stories and is corrected in his therapist’s notes, though she doesn’t dare correct him in person.
It feels strange to write, “Read this book! It’s unsettling in a very well-crafted and realistic way!” but here I am, telling you just that. And I want to add that I loved the mashup of literary fiction and superpowers in the same way I like really well done character exploration in superhero books. (For more literary superpowers check out Bad Monkeys by Matt Ruff, Soon I Will Be Invincible by Austin Grossman, The Regional Office Is Under Attack! by Manuel Gonzales)