Superheroes are super fun, but what if you’re a superhero who just doesn’t quite fit in? You may need The Superheroes Employment Agency and, in which case, you might even find yourself featured in one of these collected poems. The CEO, Blunder Woman, protects the world by making things go wrong for villains. Her roster includes The Verminator, “For thugs, you’ve got the Terminator./For rodents, me, the Verminator.” The cajoler can persuade anyone, but she’s not too happy, wondering if she’s really doing good. The Pretzel defeats villains and leaves happy clients behind, until they see what else he leaves behind; salt! Two-headed twins, Herk and Uleez not only move cars, they also wash and pulverize them. Along with the featured superheroes, there are several poems featuring perfect mash-ups. The Cajoler gets together with Clairvoyant so they can not only know what’s wrong, but persuade people to fix it. Kelly, who quit the Green Lanterns over color issues, teams up with The Caterpillar to create great costumes for “Trendy Defenders.” The poems are written in a variety of styles and rhythms, but they are all humorous and have strong beats and an emphasis on rhyming.
Noah Jones’ illustrations have a wide variety of layouts. The first spread opens with a poem stretching across the full spread above a line of superheroes applying for work. Some poems, like “Muffy the Vampire Sprayer” are set in comic panels with lots of speech bubbles and classic action. Other poems are inset with smaller illustrations of the superheroes and their deeds (and misdeeds). Some pages have background color, but most are plain white. Several of the mash-up poems like “Herman and Cyclone” show two intertwining speech bubbles. Jones’ style is cartoonish and wacky, with lots of orange and red. Characters have exaggerated facial features and tiny legs.
This could be a painless way to get kids to read some poetry. The variety of styles and the different layouts, as well as the many details in the different illustrations provide a lot of entertainment. Dedicated superhero fans won’t be interested, but kids who like wacky humor and parodies will enjoy dipping into this collection.
The Superheroes Employment Agency
by Marilyn Singer
Art by Noah Z. Jones
Clarion Books, 2012
Publisher Age Rating: 6 to 9