Friday, December 3, 2010

Chronic Review: Heroes For Hire # 1!

Heroes For Hire # 1
Marvel Comics
Script:      Dan Abnett & Andy Lanning
Pencils:     Brad Walker
22 pages of main feature + 7.5 pages historical recap for $3.99

This baby was born of two travesties.  It's vaguely spawned from the ashes of Shadowland, and the less said about that the better.  Abnett & Lanning are also free to do the book because sales put both Nova and Guardians of the Galaxy on "hiatus", which is Marvelspeake for stone cold dead.  Sad.

There's a lot of Birds of Prey in this title.  Misty Knight is functioning as Oracle, in this case they refer to her as Control.  It's the same thing.  Knight has access to all kinds of communications tech; she knows all, she sees all, and then partitions that info off to the very voluminous cast of Heroes for Hire as she sees fit.

The antagonists for the debut are an Atlantean drug dubbed "hook" and the dirty, dirty rottens that distribute it.  Misty enlists Falcon and Black Widow to intercept a truck shipping the product, sics Moon Knight on the warehouse storing it and producing a next-gen version of the drug, and hires Elektra to flat out murder one of the chiefs of the operation.

The book is very actiony and very dark.  What goes on in that drug warehouse is actually quite disturbing.  Not Crossed disturbing, but in that neighborhood, and I won't ruin it for you.  I want you to have the pleasure of feeling gross when you read it for yourself.  Also, I was a little surprised at how casually Misty Knight had a man put to death.  Sweet Christmas, this was not the way Luke and Danny took care of business!

But it's a new day, where these things just make sense, and really, if anybody deserved a sai stuck in his pancreas it's this cat, so don't think I'm taking a "moral high ground" here.  I'm just saying that the hub of this group of "heroes" had a dude whacked with the same kind of moral deliberation one uses when ordering a pizza.  It's one of the things that might actually provide some interest in the title, though.  The left hand never knows what the right hand is doing in the Heroes for Hire outfit, except for Misty Knight.  Would Falcon be working for Misty if he knew how the whole tapestry looked?  Somehow I doubt it, and that could provide for some good drama down the road.

I worry about Heroes for Hire for a couple of reasons.  The cast is enormous.  Absolutely enormous.  While they may appear on the cover, Iron Fist, Punisher, and Ghost Rider do not appear and are never mentioned in issue one.  There's no way you could get all these members involved simultaneously unless you were writing 50 page issues, and even then you'd be giving a good chunk of the cast short shrift.

I'm not saying it's a deal breaker, and it might even keep the book fresh, knowing that you'll never know who might appear in a particular episode.  For me, I'm all about characters and interactions and relationships, and the premise of this book certainly works against that.  There are too many players, and they are purposefully kept at a distance so that Misty Knight and her mystery benefactor can run their operations like a set of splinter cells.

To give an example, I might read a book like Uncanny X-Force if it wasn't $3.99 because I'm interested in the bizarre codependent Betsy/Warren relationship.  That's interesting to me.  I'm not suggesting that a similar character hook couldn't exist in HFH, but it seems less likely.

There was an error that bugged me a bit, too.  Falcon is about to call Control "Misty" over his bluetooth, and she corrects him.  Code names only, kid.  About twelve seconds later Control calls Black Widow "Natasha."  Not something that would make me kill my pull, but sloppy.  I'll get over it.

There's a Thunderbolts style reveal at the end of this issue that will probably surprise you, but I'm not sure that it's enough to sell me on the book by itself.  A little out of left field, actually, which might work in it's favor a little bit.  You might be tempted to stick around just to see how any of this actually makes sense.

I have enough faith in Abnett & Lanning to believe that it ultimately will make sense, and since subsequent issues seem to be at the $2.99, I might even stick around to find out for myself.  I don't begrudge Heroes for Hire, and I'm actually thankful that we have a new place to enjoy the always entertaining Dan Abnett & Andy Lanning.  At the same time, it's pretty obvious to me that it's simple matter of when this title is cancelled, not if.  Will they pull the plug after the first arc?  Maybe two?  And if that's the case, couldn't we have just left DNA on those wonderful space books?  I really miss Nova in particular.

But that's not really where we are in 2010, so no use crying over spilt story arcs.  I guess we just enjoy this for 8-12 issues, watch it evaporate and then enjoy the next doomed title Abnett & Lanning are assigned.  As for now, I think if you're enjoying something like Secret Avengers, this is right up your ally.  DNA are usually outstanding at developing plots and twists, and injecting a little humor into things as well.  Not much humor in this one, though, and given the size of the cast, I would expect less characterization then we're used to as well.  Still better than 65% of what's on the rack as is, though.

- Ryan

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