HENCHMEN warms the cockles of my iced over comic heart for a few reasons: it’s indie done on the same quality level as anything corporate, it has an original premise bringing comic backgrounds to the main view of focus, and finally it’s a Kickstarter that got fully funded and is delivering on all of its promises. Individually these elements don’t mean much; collectively they are a huge boon for a medium that needs more out of the box storytelling and business paradigms.
As the name implies this story is about HENCHMEN, those faceless back-up singers who dress ins something akin to the main star of the nefarious show and always end up as cannon fodder for hero roid rage. One always wonders though ( or at least I always have), who are these men who stand watch, take bullets as the first to storm Normandy or are simply hero-bait while the boss gets away with literal murder? Austin Powers and a ton of others have played with this concept, but each time it was a “just the tip” experience. Actually if memory serves, when Dr. Evil’s henchman was steamrolled the visit from HR to give his spouse and kids his benefits was relegated to extra footage on the Director Cut VHS (fuck, I am so old).
So, I find it refreshing and frankly ambitious to try to build an ongoing continuity based off these usually faceless and nameless forgotten heroes of crime.
Meet Gary, he’s not a bad guy. He’s actually a stark representation of all us fangeezers who are slowly approaching forty or have crossed the hump. He’s slightly paunchy, a little sarcastic, and just lost his job and his wife. His daughter just got braces and he’s now staring down the barrel of obsolescence with bills mounting and another forty years of life left on mother Gaia. The thing about Gary is that he’s not even looking to join the ranks of the unwashed, he ends up henching simply because he replied to a newspaper add making an offer too good to refuse. In this economy we’ve all seen these jobs and as those of us who have applied know all too well, an offer too good to be true usually is.
Enter the Head Pin of crime, a deranged man suited up with all sorts of wonderful toys that aid in his dirty deeds done dirt cheap. So cheap in fact that Gary and his inductees don’t get an ounce of armor between them, merely papier-mâché representations of bowling pins so his boss can stay on theme. We don’t learn a lot about the Head Pin, because frankly this isn’t his story. He’s captured in short order by his nemesis, Striker. Fortunately Gary is quick on his feet, so he and the 7 & 10 spin split for a speedy exit before the cavalry arrives.
What happens next had me worried until the last page. Gary, like most heroes, is looked to for leadership from his fellow pins that didn’t fall. I was extremely concerned this book would become less about a henchman and more a man destined for the top seat. Raymond deftly sidesteps the expected though, by actually having Gary become a union leader for henchmen. As this industry like all others looks to automate, Gary is now set to become a voice for the little worker against the corporate structure of automaton robotic henchmen.
This is a great first outing, filled with the enough character development and general originality that lets it transcend beyond “just a deconstruction” of the super hero mythos. Howe’s art work remains on theme with the parody without forgetting the other elements I just mentioned. Also, when Gary buys his daughter a puppy with his first round of ill-gotten gains, they chose a Golden Retriever, a breed very near and dear to my heart.
If you want a break from the norm, trying slumming it with the HENCHMEN for awhile, you won’t be disappointed.