It goes without saying that I was skeptical when presented with a comic featuring a robotic bowling pin on the cover, but I tried going into this with an open mind. “I, Henchbot” is a comic focusing on a middle-aged man struggling to stay afloat after his divorce by becoming a henchman to the recently incarcerated villain known as HeadPin. It sounds ridiculous because it is. To my relief, it is the type of ridiculous that is intentional and works to the advantage of the book.
So, “I, Henchbot” is a 6-part companion series to Henchmen, which I have never read. From the recap page, we learn that our main character, Gary, saved his fellows Weasel & Crowbar while making off with some cash. With his boss in the clink, he now finds himself unemployed yet again and is desperate to prove his worth to his daughter and ex-wife. The problem is that he struggles to get a job for a multitude of reasons and I can personally relate to his plight, making his story quite relatable. There are other scenes not directly following Gary which set up the direction for this miniseries, namely the takeover of a big tech company called Vimco by an ominous, shadowed figure who confronts Headpin in prison by issue’s end. Also, Gary is conflicted by how to handle his stolen gains from the recent bank robbery, but finds a bittersweet solution.
While this issue has flashes of action and villainy, the prominent theme is the struggle of overcoming personal hardship. From this one issue, I feel like I understand Gary and can sympathize with his situation. Jamison Raymond does a great job with character development and the comic flows well. The ideas for villains and heroes in this are goofy, but all of them are if you think about it. How is a hard-headed criminal called Numbskull any different from the Juggernaut or Rhino? Every memorable personality has a shtick and the rogues of the Henchmen series are pretty unique. However, to contradict this point, Gary is very plain and average but resonates with me. Ryan Howe draws him as a clearly depressed man through posture and facial expressions. His only motivation to keep going is his daughter Sam and I can tell this custody battle is really hard on the two of them. The art is straight forward, lacking quirkiness and cartoonish embellishments. This is a good thing for a book like this. I was concerned about the lack of color, as I really fall in love with exceptional colors, but Gary’s world being in black and white could act as a metaphor for the bland, hopelessness of his current situation, much like The Walking Dead.
This issue makes me want to pick up the main Henchmen series, even though the artist is different. After seeing promotional material for the book at a recent convention, it looks like an interesting story about not only Gary but other henchpeople, all with their own gimmicks. I’ve read all sorts of stories about heroes, villains, sidekicks, and love interests, but this is my first glimpse into the world of those doing grunt work for the “bad guys”. Thanks to Ryan Howe for the copy of “I, Henchbot” to review and hope everyone checks it out because it’s a good read with a complex central character. The TPB of Henchmen is now available and “I, Henchbot” is already on issue 4.
Great, 4 out of 5 Stars