3 reasons why Heroine’s Journey offers a clever take on superheroes

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When it comes to superhero novels, Heroine’s Journey might not be what you’re expecting, but it’s certainly what we might need these days.

About a year ago, yours truly got to review Heroine Worship by Sarah Kuhn, part of the Heroine  Complex series. This year brings us Heroine’s Journey, which DAW again sent me for review purposes, and I’m pleased to say that in a superhero-heavy world, this novel stands out like its predecessors.

If you looked at Wasp in Ant-Man and the Wasp and immediately demanded more superheroines, then Heroine’s Journey will definitely tickle your fancy. You’ll want to read the first two books, of course, but hey, it’s still not decades of comics, right?

Beyond that, though, the novel, which follows a now 20-something Beatrice Tanaka, isn’t just another origin story just put into text-only form. Here’s how Heroine’s Journey will keep your superhero love going strong.

Actual moral dilemmas on powers

To keep quoting from the Marvel universe, “With great power comes great responsibility.” Kuhn avoids repeating the line in Heroine’s Journey, but it definitely seems like she had it in mind. Bea’s powers involve emotions, but throughout the novel, she starts to exhibit some… moral flexibility on how she uses them.

The thing is, she gets called out on it, but it’s not a one-and-done beat shoved in there for the sake of having a moment of doubt. Kuhn has the room to show a true slippery slope with Bea, and she uses that to her full extent. The book doesn’t get super preachy too much — there are a few instances of it towards the end, but nothing too after-school-special, thankfully.

Bea and Sam

Dear readers, Sam Fujikawa and Bea are one of my favorite couples of the years so far, and that’s considering that I also review romance novels on the regular. Granted, I’ll readily admit that a super-competitive couple that can’t stop snarking at each other immediately piques my interest, but Kuhn backs it up with a mix of tenderness and steamy scenes that outdo some of the romance novels I’ve reviewed this year.

Nor does this romantic pairing feel like it’s just stapled on; it’s well-integrated into the story at large, and not just because Sam ends up driving Bea a lot of places. Sam might not have powers, but he has insights of his own, and these two genuinely care about each other. Sure, Bea’s narration calls him cheesy frequently, but as a reader, their scenes trend toward the sweet and the spicy (and sometimes both at once).

All the representation, everywhere

Remember the debate on Twitter about the “Asian Hair Streak“? That comes up in this book, because Bea dyes her hair. So does her casual mentioning of dating both guys and girls in the past. As does Bea’s friend Leah being both black and Korean while also dating a woman and having to deal with Bea trying to set her up with people. We could go on. We will refrain on the grounds of some things needing to be discovered on their own.

To make a long story short, there’s a lot of room here for people who might not always get nods in superhero fare (still waiting on that first confirmed MCU-canon LGBTQ character, and we wish Valkyrie would count, Marvel). That’s important.

Next: 3 ways The Calculating Stars shoots for the moon

In the acknowledgments, Kuhn notes that there will be more Heroine Complex stories. Since Heroine’s Journey is probably the best so far, yours truly is excited to see where everyone goes next.