Title: School for Sidekicks
Author: Kelly McCullough
Series: The Academy of Metahuman Operatives #1
After a mysterious explosion in Minneapolis triggers superpowers in a large number of people, heros and villains (otherwise known as Masks and Hoods) leap from fantasy to reality. And because new people are still discovering powers, Evan Quick hopes desperately to be one of them. But when an encounter with a Hood finally unlocks the abilities he always wanted to have, he finds that life isn’t so simple anymore. Masks and Hoods aren’t what he thought. Now he’s a sidekick to a washed-out Mask, looking for answers.
This was an odd one for me to read right after My Hero Academia because the two have a very similar premise up front. Superpowers have become normalized in society. The main character is a powerless kid who obsesses over heros, particularly the greatest one who has spectacular power but also a dark secret. And the powerless kid suddenly gets a power, but not one he can easily use to do awesome things like he originally thought.
In Evan’s case, though, the story takes darker turns. Captain Commanding has it out for Evan after Evan helps him out in a fight against the strongest Hood, Spartanicus. The hero school Evan attends will train him to be a Mask, but they also have complete legal authority over him, and can override his parents on everything. And the reason meta-humans exist . . .
I did like how well Evan could navigate even without a flashy power, and especially how he finds creative ways to use his abilities to actually fight. I liked the conversation he has with his parents about that first fight, too, where they’re urging him to consider what it actually means that he can now go so far beyond human boundaries. And I liked the entertaining take on many of his classes. Combat with Dinnerware was easily my favorite.
Sometimes the superhero homages made less sense. A class in quipping? And I get having superhero handles, but not being able to choose one yourself sucks a lot of fun out of it (and Evan’s is terrible considering it doesn’t tie into his powers at all, nor is it really a great pair with his Mask’s except that they’re both animal species). And I’m still trying to figure out how radiation from a bomb can cause you to grow jewels under your skin that shoot out laser death-rays (perhaps a different explanation of how the powers are triggered would have sat better with me). Even if it is a very special bomb.
I was also a little disappointed Evan completely skipped out on the memorial. I was hoping to get some insight into the metamorphosis brought up, but the story went in a different direction, so perhaps in a future book. This does leave plenty of room for future stories, and I hope we get at least a few more (please bring aliens, any kind of aliens, whether friendly or not). Evan and his new friends have hardly scratched the surface of what’s going on and what they might one day grow to do.
If you like superpowers, superheros, and don’t mind a somewhat darker take on the whole thing, this is a good read. (For a similar premise, but much more positive story, see My Hero Academia.) I rate this book Recommended.