By Dustin Cabeal
I was going to review each issue of Henchgirl one by one, but at this point my review time is short, and the series has concluded so I’m bunching them up in a way. Especially since issues 7 through 11 feel much different from the first six issues of the series.
The first six was this different take on the superhero genre, and for the most part, it felt like it was having fun. Even in all the very serious and deeper moments, it felt carefree. Like there were no real consequences to the story. That is until the sixth issue. Then it became apparent that creator Kristen Gudsnuk was all about the consequences in a way that other superhero comics have never tackled it before.
Mary fell into the whole “henching” thing. We see time and time again that she’s not a bad person and doesn’t even do “bad” things when she’s being commanded to. It’s just a job for her, but she’s lazy and likes to take the easy route. That is until the Butterfly Gang turns her evil with a serum and suddenly the story takes on a very serious tone. There’s still plenty of humor and what I call “Mary” moments, it’s just that there’s some real evil going on with Mary now. And it was so sad.
Because after two issues, I cared a lot about Mary. Yes, she could have found a different job and lived life differently, but how many people do you know that are just stuck in life? Fuck, my life isn’t even bad, and I feel stuck where I am. The world works in weird ways, and so I was very sympathetic to Mary’s position in life and wanting to be good, but stuck helping bad people.
The last five issues to me were about how we can’t change the past, and we can’t change the future. I could be wrong, but it seemed like the message Gudsnuk was delivering was that you have to focus on the now. If you think about what you could have done differently in the past, you’ll ruin your future, and if you’re too focused on the future, you’ll miss what you’re doing now. I could be wrong; it could just be the past message and something along the lines of “be hopeful in the future.” The great thing about comics and stories, in general, is that there’s always a degree of what the reader takes from it and so while I might technically be wrong or right, it doesn’t change what I got from the story.
It's amazing to see Gudsnuk’s writing develop and grow as the series went on. Each character is fleshed out to the point that the story moves from the main character with supporting cast to an ensemble cast. It’s not just a story about Mary, but rather a group of people with Mary at the center. Comics like this don’t exist anymore. A comic in which the creator grew and developed along with the story. A comic in which you can rabbit ear the pages and point to them as examples of the creator making a change to the world. Gudsnuk’s writing on Henchgirl has been a breath of fresh air in the industry.
Then there’s the art. I like a lot of artists right now. Artists that I probably wouldn’t have when I first got into comics, but now I pretty much latch on to talented artists that defy industry norms. Gudsnuk is one such artist. Her style various and changes within the issue in a way I can only equate it to manga. There’s an overall style, but then there will be panels that are detailed differently giving them a more serious tone. Her art grows to ridiculous levels throughout the course of this series. If you’re an artist, I recommend you checking it out just for the art alone.
I do have to say something about the covers. I’m not a cover person. I got over that shit long ago, but each cover of Henchgirl has been fantastic. She’ll draw Mary in an entirely different style; she’ll use homage, she’ll capture the theme of the issues in one image. The covers for Henchgirl reminded me of comics in the 90s in which the cover would contain the essence of the issue, but not be in the issue. The second issue is still my favorite cover, but the eighth issue is a close second. Why? Because it’s a fucking NES cover and it's so damn cool looking. Fantastic covers from start to finish.
At this point, it’s going to be hard to buy all the single issues. I know that through a combination of the website you can get 6 through 11. You can wait for the trade as well. However you support Henchgirl is fine, just make sure you support Henchgirl. I mean this next part: I’ve grown to hate superhero comics. I hate when indie superhero comics are submitted for review, I hate reading superhero comics from small publishers that got their start doing anything but superhero comics (that’s not in reference to Scout Comics by the way). The point is, I avoid the fuck out of them. But not anymore. Because if I wrote them off entirely, I would have missed Henchgirl. I would have missed the best superhero comics I’ve read in probably ten years. Henchgirl will forever be one of my favorite comics, so check it out.
Score: 5/5 (All issues)
Creator: Kristen Gudsnuk
Publisher: Scout Comics