Hmm this was definitely highly recommended by a number of people, but it ended up falling flat for me. I thought a lot while reading it as to why that was, and I think the conclusion is this: the motivations of the various characters, both primary and secondary, never seemed to resonate in a way that made me root for their successes.
Anna/The Auditor, the titular Hench, works temp jobs doing data entry for supervillains. She’s all about The Data, in a way that reads a bit like someone who has read that Big Data is the Next Big Thing but isn’t really clear on what that means. She’s always “crunching the numbers” even if the numbers she’s crunching aren’t really revealing anything more shocking than “superheros cause a lot of collateral damage, here’s exactly how much.” I suppose the point might have been driven home more if it hadn’t become a plot point in the gazillion-dollar-generating MCU universe. After seeing vast swaths of NYC just mowed down in the first Avengers movie, people (both in our universe and in-universe) noted how ludicrous it was that billions if not trillions of dollars of damage was done.
Which is to say I don’t disagree with that premise, but the super obvious counterpart seems to never be addressed. To take the catalytic event in the book, Electric Eel demands $5m in bitcoin and is about to chop off the tip of the mayor’s son’s non-dominant hand-pinky to show he is Serious. Supercollider, the Superman/Ironman-esque superhero in this universe, shows up to prevent it and in doing so causes lots of damage. How much? Well, Anna tallies it up and calculates it as being many millions of dollars in lost income, long term disability, and property damage.
But, like. If Eel hadn’t done his dastardly thing, then there would be no damage to begin with? Why are we blaming superheros for causing collateral damage when they’re reacting to threats/events that are started, unprompted, by supervillains???
Thus what I mean by feeling a bit distant and removed from the motivations of the characters. Anna uses this event (she ends up with a shattered femur, in one of many graphic descriptions of terrible injuries) as motivation to take down superheros via a Data Driven! death by a thousand cuts type campaign. I’m not saying she deserved to be permanently limping because she chose to take the first temp job that came her way, but her ire seems a bit misplaced.
Her ire also seems a bit…lacking in depth. Everyone’s motivations seem a bit shallow, in that it’s hard to get into the minds. And look, I am all about the redeemed villains/the villains who are more interesting than the superheros. The tragedy of Loki > Thor’s grief, although the latter finally gets more compelling when Thor/Chris Hemsworth was given a chance. The arc of Kylo Ren > any of the other SW arcs, but only because every other arc was a mess and a half and villains make for easy leads.
For me, there was a much tighter, more interesting story using just one or two of the many plot threads that wove in and out of this story.
Spoiler: The most moving element, by FAR, came via hearsay, when Doc Proton is talking to the journalist McKinnon, and recounts the meeting between Leviathan and Supercollider after the announced death of Entropy, Leviathan’s mentor. He’s distraught, and she told him prior that she would never leave him, that any attempt to paint her demise as an accident would be a frame. He goes to his best friend, Supercollider, and begs him to help find her killers, and Supercollider tells him it was him. It’s such a short interlude, but buried in there are just enough bones to truly feel Leviathan’s motivations and grief at losing the only person who cared about him, leaving him lonely and pushed to the “villainy” side. But the seeds for that were sort of inelegantly sown, and his drive to burn it all at the end once again come out of nowhere.