the Little Red Reviewer

Sidekicks! edited by Sarah Hans

Posted on: December 11, 2013

sidekicksSidekicks!  edited by Sarah Hans

published in March 2013

Where I got it: received review copy from the publisher (Thanks Alliteration Ink!)

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This anthology is about yup, you guessed it, Sidekicks. And every hero needs a sidekick, right?  Someone who will support them no matter what, help them be the hero of our own story?  Even if you’re not a hero, we all need someone like that in our life.  I was expecting this anthology to be all stories starring super heroes having superhero adventures, cape and utility belt included. I was expecting the collection to be good, but not great, to speak to an audience of Batman and Superman and Thor fans that I just wasn’t a part of.  Hey, guess what? Batman, Superman, Thor, all those heroes that I’m not all that interested in? This anthology isn’t interested in them either. For once, they aren’t in the spotlight.  Sidekicks! wasn’t merely good or even great, it was flippin’ fantastic.

I’m not so interested in superheroes doing superthings and getting superattention, but people who’d rather save the day from behind the scenes? Yeah, that I can totally get into. Most of them are about people doing the right thing (or believing they are doing the right thing), and getting too little credit for it.  Not sure who the sidekick is in the story? It’s the person who is most selfless, the person least interested in the limelight. . . most of the time.    Many of the stories are packed with emotion and depth, others are filled with fear and denial.  In some the characters aren’t sure if they are on the good side or the bad side.  You may not recognize many of the authors in the table of contents, but I guarantee this is a collection you’ll be thinking about for a while.

Enough with the intro, let’s get to talking about just a few of my favorite stories!

Hunter and Bagger, by Alex Bledsoe – This quickie opens with Ellen, who is tied to a chair in a shed.  She realizes she’s been kidnapped by the infamous Headhunter, the serial killer who cuts women’s heads off.  But it turns out The Headhunter isn’t one man, but two.  The two men demand that the woman tell them which one of them is the villain, and which one is the sidekick. Is this a trick question? Does she get to live if she answers right?  But how to tell, since the two men seem more interested in bickering with each other than acting heroic or in this case very villainous?  If she’s going to get out of there, she’s going to have to think fast. And thinking fast is exactly what she does. These have got to be the dumbest, thickest idiot serial killers ever, and Ellen would be laughing her head off, if she wasn’t in her underwear, tied to a chair, in a shed with two lunatics.

Alex and the OCD Oracle, by D. Robert Hamm – Alex and Jimmy have been best friends for ages.  Jimmy is a sort-of precog, but he only got half the “pre”. He can’t see what’s going to happen exactly, but he can see what he needs to do make something happen.  The two best friends joke about his special ability, and you’d joke about it too, if you found yourself compelled to fill a kiddy pool with diet soda or drive half way across the state in the middle of the night, or fill your freezer with mangoes.  Alex takes care of Jimmy, drives him around, helps him be in the right place at the right time, listens to and believes his crazy theories. Alex is technically a sidekick, but to what? Jimmy isn’t a hero (he’s actually a big wuss), but he is someone who needs help figuring the future out. This story was fun to read from start to finish, complete with happy ending and a supernatural twist.

Fangirl, by Stephen Lickman – Kristi, known as Scout, is sidekick to Captain Guerrero, everyone’s favorite Hero, and certainly her favorite Hero. She’s not in love with him, but she’s made it her duty to keep him in the mindset of a hero. They burst into secret labs to rescue imprisoned scientists, they rescue princesses from would-be abductors.  But something is very wrong here. Capt Guerrero spouts pithy one liners and seems easily fooled, happy to believe anything Kristi tells him. And the guy they just rescued? He’s most definitely *not* a scientist, and Kristi keeps wishing she was a better athlete.  But as Kristi says, Capt. Guerrero is “exactly what the world needs right now”.  In this post-apocalyptic world of villages and bandits, the survivors have no use for a vigilante, but they do have need of a hero. But still, something isn’t quite right.   Kristi’s got a secret identity, but how come the captain doesn’t? Why doesn’t he ever seem to break character and act like a normal person?  This story is really tragedy.  An accident of being in the right place at the right time, Kristi holds immense power over Capt Guerrero.  At the moment of her choosing, she can force him to face who he really is, and what happened to him.  But he’s her Captain, he’s her Hero, and she’d never do anything like that to him. She’s too busy living her dream.

Doomed by K.W. Taylor – Even sidekicks have to go through the interview process. Stealth Scout markets herself as best she can – a two and a half year apprenticeship with Skeleton Key! A natural superpower! A mid-level leadership role in Skeleton Key’s organization! But to no avail.  She’s little to no actual street cred or experience, making her practically unemployeable. And one of these days, someone is going to figure out that “mid-level leadership role” is a fancy term for babysitter.   Come on, haven’t we all sexed up our resumes, only to get  burned at the job interview?  But it’s a little more complicated than that. Because of her special abilities, Skeleton Key wanted to protect Stealth, wanted to make sure the bad guys never even knew she existed. If they did, they’d do anything to recruit a woman with that kind of power.  Frustrated with disastrous job interviews, Stealth Scout may need to look elsewhere for work.  It’s not that Stealth has any interest in working for the bad guys, it’s that she’s got rent and bills and needs a paycheck. And the goodguys sure aren’t interested in her.  Taylor balances this heavy subject matter with a few laugh out loud lines.

The Decent Thing To Do, by Daniel R.  Robichaud – if you read just one story in this anthology, make it this story. Everytime I opened the anthology, this was the story I kept returning to to read again. Ruzvidzo Nkwane, also known as  Redbreast, grew up in the time of Apartheid. But that was many years ago, and he’s been the sidekick to the ageless Doc Mania ever since.  Mike Mania  became a Hero in the 1920s thanks to his immortality serum, but the chemicals never worked on anyone but him. The serum didn’t give Redbreast immortality, it gave him cancer instead.  Redbreast and Doc Mania won’t grow old together, they won’t fight crime forever together. In the time that he has left, Ruzvidzo is trying to find a replacement, and he settled on Penny Purcell, a college student. She’s just the person to help Doc become more accepting and more tolerant of modern beliefs and sensibilities. The world has changed in 90 years, but Doc Mania really hasn’t.  Perhaps with Penny’s help, he’ll be ready to hear the words Ruzvidzo has been trying to tell him for all these years. Redbreast helped change the world, but he was never able to change Doc’s thoughts of what was decent and what wasn’t.

At Your Service, by Kelly Swails – Timekeeper and Jokester meet in a waiting room. It’s not important what they are waiting for, at least not yet.  They’ve both been at the sidekick business for enough years that they’re nearly a generation older than the new upstarts.  What worked on badguys and thugs 20 years ago just doesn’t cut it these days. Jokester’s silly outfit and dirty puns won’t make a villain laugh so hard they can’t breathe, and few thugs are scared at Timekeepers skill at counting down to their doom.  What’s an aged sidekick to to? It’s not exactly a gig that people retire from.  But how to convince the young upstart heroes to value their elders?  Timekeeper knows how.

The Gold Mask’s Managerie by Chante McCoy – Yay! a story with a cute animal sidekick! Sort of!  The very human Brigitte can meld with the minds of animals, use their senses. She climbs into the mind of a beautiful woman’s dog, and follows the woman home, falling even more in love with her on the way.  Brigitte’s new loves name is Anya, and the first unfortunate thing is that Anya has a boyfriend.  The second unfortunate thing is that Anya is known as The Gold Mask, a local hero who mostly goes after neighborhood bullies. Anya thought she was on her own, until small animals, or sometimes even the thug’s dog, starts helping her out.  They scratch, they bite, they growl, they scare the bad guys. And Anya will never know who her sidekick really is, she’ll never know how much Brigitte is in love with her.

Second Banana Republic by Donald J. Bingle – Paulo has always been the dutiful little brother. Supportive of his older brother, General Eduardo Cordoba, the Dictator of Costa Raphael, and especially supportive of El General’s beautiful wife, Bonita.  Paulo knows his place, knows that it’s in the shadows, away from flashbulbs and newspaper interviewers.  In charge of the Secret Police, Paulo often makes El General’s problems (such as not being loved enough by his people) disappear.  Eduardo trusts Paulo explicitely, and why shouldn’t he? Little brothers exist to help their big brothers, and if it wasn’t for Paulo, Eduardo would have been assassinated ten times by now, gunned down by detractors who are of course funded by foreign governments.  Eduardo is so naive, and Paulo is just biding his time, pulling strings from the sidelines, the shadows. Wait a minute, who is really the sidekick here? Who is really in charge?

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6 Responses to "Sidekicks! edited by Sarah Hans"

Never heard of this before but I am curious now!

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As we both know, sidekicks are awesome – Jean T defo started out more as a sidekick and now he has a hugeass following – well of at least me!! (and so I’m sure there’s thousands of others would-be Team Jean people out there!). Plus, I quite often prefer the side characters in a good book. Not always of course and maybe I ‘ll have to go away and think about this a little more now instead of just speculating.
Lynn :D

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[…] most recent review is of a hero anthology called Sidekicks.  Check it […]

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Love the idea behind this anthology. Thanks for bringing it to our attention :D

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[…] I tend to avoid reviews of my own work because I already have enough self-esteem issues. However, at the urging of Steve Saus, I checked out this review of Sidekicks!  posted by The Little Red Reviewer. […]

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[…] Weee! This came in the email recently, and it has me so happy! The Little Red Reviewer called Sidekicks “flippin’ fantastic!” It feels really great to be included in such a wonderful collection of stories, and authors. Check out her review here. […]

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