By Dustin Cabeal
If you’ve read any of my previous reviews for this series, then feel free to skip this one. While I won’t be going into the same level of detail for the trade as I did on the single issues, it’s pretty clear already that this trade will be scoring perfectly.
On the surface, Henchgirl seems like an indie comedy about superheroes. And hey, if that’s your only take away then you’ll still leave feeling satisfied by your purchase and time spent with Henchgirl. There is much more to the story which follows Mary Posa, a Henchgirl for the Butterfly Gang. There’s the complexity of doing what’s right and doing what’s easy, which sums up Mary’s entire adult existence. Side by side with that is a look at what is really good and evil and is it always that clear? Henchgirl answers that question in a way that superhero comics that have been going on 80 or 90 years fail to do so on a weekly base. The answer is, of course, yes and no, meaning you’ll never be able to define it clearly. Creator Kristen Gudsnuk embraces that and makes it an element of the story, it’s used in Mary’s character development along with several other characters in the story.
There’s also a family element, which when you give it a lot of thought plays a huge role in superhero comics. There’s a lot of great characters that use their family as their foundation and motivation for being a hero. Henchgirl explores it in a different way. What if you were the first-born child of a superhero family and grew up to be a disappointment? I don’t want to say anything more about that, but there is a lot of complexity to Mary’s relationships that play off very real emotions from everyday life.
That’s where Henchgirl succeeds over and over; it doesn’t feel super, it feels human. Sure, there are powers and fantasy elements, but the characters are very real. They act and talk like a group of friends and overcome challenges together while having fun along the way. There’s also a lot of drama and darkness to Henchgirl. Again, I’ve covered it in depth in my individual reviews, but the story isn’t always happy. Hell, the jokes get dark at times which is part of its charm. It’s not dark in an “everything’s dark and gritty since Watchmen” type of way, but dark in the way that life just is sometimes.
Tying this all together is some of the best art I’ve discovered in the past ten years. There’s a lot of great art out there, but much of American comics look the same. Not just in superhero comics either. There’s just a sense of sameness, but occasionally there’s a talent that has a style that is just captivating. Gudsnuk is that way to me. I love the art for Henchgirl more than anything because the style was played with, the design was played with, and it all worked. She is a rare talent, and frankly, I don’t know what else to praise her for on the art that I haven’t already in my other reviews. Again, read those reviews, not for me, I don’t give a shit about clicks, but because I hate repeating something over and over as it starts to feel disingenuous.
What I can tell you with confidence is that not only is this one of the best superhero comics I’ve read in many years, but it’s one of the best comic books I’ve ever read, period. Other critics might find that statement to be questionable since my quote is on the cover, but I tell you that not as a comic critic, but rather as a person that reads a ton of comics weekly and happens to review them. My goal with each review is not to praise the creators or publisher, but rather to help the consumer. If you’re going to spend some money this week, put some aside for Henchgirl.
Creator: Kristen Gudsnuk
TPB Publisher: Dark Horse Comics