We don’t want to read a Hulk novel written by Jonathan Franzen. Nor do we want to see Lorrie Moore’s name listed in the table of contents of a new Wild Cards anthology. Even though Franzen and Moore are incredibly talented authors, we’re not pining for them to write the Great American Superhero Novel.
All we want is a tightly wound adventure filled with great humor, hyper magniloquence, and preposterous characters. We want it to be clever and a little bit naughty too. Is that too much to ask?
Stephen T. Brophy has written such a book. The Villain’s Sidekick is everything we’re looking for in superhero fiction. It’s funny and ridiculous and a little bit raunchy. As an extra bonus, the author also includes a couple of “aw-shucks” moments for added value. Compared to everything else in our tiny genre bubble, Brophy has written the perfect novel.
HandCannon is a down-on-his-luck supervillain henchman. He’s seven feet tall and highly weaponized. But his most distinguishing feature is his metallic mandible and razor-sharp teeth (see the book’s cover illustration for more detail). He’s a brute (“I’m scary on my best days,” he admits) but his career in villainy hasn’t exactly been noteworthy. After all these years, he’s content to simply be a wingman for hire.
Despite his prosthetic artillery and enhanced musculature, HandCannon is just a regular schmo like the rest of us. He’s got an ex-wife and a cute six-year-old daughter. He’s also got a monthly mortgage payment and he’s doing his best to chip away at some lingering gambling debts and student loans. After robbing banks and terrorizing the citizens of Houston all day, he likes to spend his nights quietly watching reruns of Downton Abbey.
Taking an assignment from Dr. Eye, a powerful underworld kingpin, HandCannon embarks on a crazy mission to retrieve an elusive, and preternatural, pink rock. If he screws things up this time, his incompetence will spell doom for Texas and the rest of the country. Enlisting the help of some villainous pals (Launchpad, the Clone Ranger, Miss Thang, and Bitch Goddess), a superhero sidekick named Twiliter, and his daughter Cordelia, HandCannon finally realizes his dormant superheroic potential.
In the end, all those court-ordered anger management classes and those twice-daily Narcotics Anonymous meetings finally pay off for HandCannon. Even a loser like him can turn his miserable life around. It looks like Houston’s got a brand new superhero. And it looks like we’ve got ourselves a brand new favorite superhero novel.
[The Villain’s Sidekick / By Stephen T. Brophy / First Printing: September 2013 / ISBN: 9781493717316]