"Evan Quick, Hero's Log, May the 25th… and darn it – I just can't do this. I'm never going to be a Mask. Get over it Evan."
Evan Quick has spent his whole life dreaming of becoming a hero. Every morning he wakes up and runs through a checklist of test to see if he's developed powers over night, and every day it is the same thing – nothing. No flying, no super strength, no heat rays or cold beams. No invulnerability – that always hurt to check – no telepathy, no magic. Not even the ability to light a light bulb without flipping a switch. And now, he's finally ready to give up.
But then, the class field trip to the Mask Museum is interrupted by a super villain attack, and Evan somehow manages to survive a death ray. Even better, Evan's favorite Mask, Captain Commanding, shows up to save them all -- and when things go very wrong, it's Evan who finds the strength to come to Captain Commanding's rescue.
Yet the hero's reception Evan is expecting never happens. Before he even gets the chance to say hello, Evan is bundled away to The Academy, an institution derisively called The School for Sidekicks by its students. Forced to take classes like Banter Basics and Combat with Dinnerware, while being assigned as an ‘apprentice' to Foxman – a Mask widely considered a has-been -- Evan starts to worry that he'll never be able to save the day…
Adult author McCullough (the Fallen Blade series) offers a rousing parody of superhero tales in his first book for children. Thirteen-year-old Evan Quick is obsessed with "Masks" (McCullough's term for superheroes) and particularly loves the great Captain Commanding. After Evan witnesses the Captain's defeat by the supervillain Spartanicus, he manages to turn the tables on the villain, discovering that he himself is a budding Mask. But the egocentric Captain takes credit for Spartanicus's capture, portraying Evan as an abject wimp. When Evan enrolls in the Academy for Metahuman Operatives, aka the School for Sidekicks, he learns that Captain Commanding has had him blackballed no adult Mask will work with him except for the disgraced Foxman, "a failure, and a drunk," as Evan puts it. Evan's smartass narration, dangerous run-ins with evil Hoods, tough moral quandaries, and a wild range of superpowered heroes and villains including Blurshift, a genderfluid shapeshifer, and the Fluffinator, who commands an army of "plush collectibles" (don't call them teddy bears) make this an excellent choice for any reader awaiting the next Marvel film. Ages 10 14.