Or – “How To Get A Head In The World…”

No, Wait, How ‘Bout “He Shoulda Quit While He Was A Head.”

Wait! Let’s Try “That’s Not What I Meant When I Asked For…” Oh, Nevermind.H4H10.jpg

I’ve been wavering for a couple of months about Heroes For Hire, whether or not I’m going to continue reading it, and I’ve decided that I’m keeping it on my hold list, for one of my simplest reasons: I sincerely believe that Marvel will end the title before too much longer. Certainly I’m not saying that Heroes is a bad comic book, it isn’t, but it’s good in a scattershot way, and there isn’t a clear focus as to what the book is ABOUT. It’s pseudo-superheroes, not exactly a team book, and the plots have a tendency to meander (enough so that when I read Civil War: Battle Damage Report, I didn’t remember some of the things that were said to have happened in this title). The ostensible focus of the characters is on Misty Knight and Colleen Wing, but with approximately ten regular characters, Heroes For Hire is sort of like Legion of Superheroes with cleavage. Let me show ya what I mean…

H4H1.jpgIn previous issues, we’ve had the obligatory Civil War tie-in, a war over stolen Skrull organs (used to give humans shapeshifting powers), the H4H have lost a member (Paladin is doomed to never last more than 12 minutes in any given title), Shang-Chi seems to have a crush on the new Tarantula, whose Daddy was killed by ninjas hired by Ricadonna, who used her newfound super-powers (see Skrull organs, above) to try and kill Colleen and Misty, even bombing their headquarters, forcing them to take up residence in a new state-of-the-art facility, located above a Chinese Restaurant, and last issue the various members of the team ran up against two separate cabals of lamer villains from the 70’s (The Headmen, one of Steve Gerber’s best concepts ever, and The Lethal Legion, in the form of Grim Reaper, Man-Ape, and minor Iron Man villain The Saboteur) and also, there’s absolutely no reason for The Black Cat to be in this book. I think that may be my best run-on sentence ever…

Five of the H4H (Misty, Colleen, Shang-Chi, Tarantula, and Black Cat) have engaged the Lethal Legion in New York Harbor, only to find that the LL have mined a freighter with a huge, extremely sophisticated bomb. None of them are particularly skilled with defusing things (even though Black Cat seems to know a bit about bombs), as Misty desperately calls her comptroller, Otis, for backup. He sends assistance in the form of Orka (“Orka Dorka Doo… Where are you? We got a bomb to defuse now… Orka Dorka Doo, where are you? We need some help from you now!”) who, being Atlantean, lacks any subtlety at all, and just hauls it off.


On the one hand, I like this sequence, it shows comraderie between the heroes, and also allows them to successfully take care of the bomb, and it’s cute. The downside, for me, is that it seems somewhat out-of-character (especially for the ultra-intense Tarantula and the stoic Shang) to engage in friendly banter, it makes them seem like they’re not taking a HUGE explosive device seriously, and it’s almost TOO cute. Granted, this is a light-hearted title, and the adventure is going to be in the tongue-in-cheek Indiana Jones terrain, but this sticks out at me as being a little over-the-top. Orka leaps into the ocean (this is a mighty stable bomb) and chucks it into a deep underwater crevasse. The authorities arrive, secure the scene, and someone asks “Has anyone heard from Humbug?” Scene change, and we see that ‘Bug is not having a good day.


Hey, be glad you got to keep your skull, Buck, when they did this to Nighthawk, he spent six issues as a brain in a bowl. Back on the cargo ship, the team is stunned to find that it’s point of origin is Latveria. Wuh oh. The H4H discuss the possibility of having to engage Doom, and find, upon returning to HQ, that Humbug has not called in, and without him, they’re going to have problems tracking The Grim Reaper. The sudden appearance of a swarm of cock-a-roaches resets the teams priorities…


I really don’t get what The Black Cat is doing here, other than providing another latex-clad uber-babe. She has no powers, and she hasn’t really contributed to the team dynamic at all. In fact, the only affect her leaving the title would have is less crowded team shots. I will say that both Colleen and Tarantula are amusing as heck in that panel, however. Somewhat later, we check in on the Lethal Legion, with Saboteur being a jerk, Grim Reaper angry and anxious about his plan failing, and Man-Ape charmingly cooking eggs in his bathrobe and fuzzy slippers. “Have some breakfast, Grim. I’m making egg hats.” Heh. Saboteur smarts off again, and finds out why you never cross a reanimated zombie supervillain who wears a skull on his chest.


Heh. Man-Ape is just a caution. He offers The Reaper an egg hat (what the heck is an egg hat, anyway?) and points out that all the plans they have involve bombs, something that no one save the recently deceased bottle-blonde staining the Pergo floor has any experience with. Suddenly, the door blows open, and it seems like there’s been a leak at the local fetish club, as a horde of hourglass figures in tight shiny leather bust through the door, and begin re-enacting “Fists of Fury.”


“What gorilla tastes like?” Eww. Turns out that the goons in exoskeletons (seen last issue working for the Reaper) narced on Reaper, and Misty traced the technology straight back to Monkey and Razorhand. Man-Ape overpowers both kitty and spider, tossing them both out a plate-glass window (the Shawn Michaels rejection technique) as Knight and Wing engage the Grim Reaper in mortal (or is that RIGOR mortal?) combat…

IMAGE REMOVED BY MARVEL LEGAL DEPARTMENTAnd they deal with one of my great complaints about the book, right there. Sure, former artist Billy Tucci draws pretty girls with long hair, but having three characters with the exact same hairstyle, just different colors, works against believability and edges us towards cheesecake territory. Plus, Colleen looks cute as heck in the little bob haircut that Reaper’s scythe magically gives her. Oh, and didn’t somebody get defenstrated a minute ago? Luckily, Black Cat keeps her feathers numbered for just such an emergency.


I suspect that this young boy has exhausted his store of dumb luck for an entire lifetime, as the cheesecake factor goes back through the roof. Misty and Colleen subdue the Grim Reaper, who finally explains what he wanted: money. Reaper believes that if he could prove that he could successfully execute a terrorist attack without any trail, then he could sell his services to the highest bidder. Black Cat arrives just in time to see Misty’s response to this rather disconcerting admission: “You’re not gonna stick those antlers up his–”

ANND we cut to Humbug, still at the mercy of the Headmen. He seems to have some sort of plan in mind, taunting Ruby Thursday (yes, I know, but it’s apparently her real name) until she nearly turns off the life support for his disembodied head. At that precise moment, the Headmen are surprised by the arrival of Orka and Shang-Chi. None of the Headmen are strong enough to take out Orka, or fast enough to even touch Shang, but Gorilla-Man calls for his backup, the renegade Doombot. Orka is happy to fight something that he doesn’t have to hold back on, but unfortunately, you can’t underestimate the evil of Doctor Doom, even when that evil is ancient and malfunctioning…


Well, it looks like they may be dealing with the “too many characters” problem the Brian Bendis way. New artist Al Rio does good action shots, but his facial expressions seem a bit limited, and the faces of the female H4Hers tend to blur, forcing you to decide who’s who by hair color. Shang-Chi looks pretty goofy throughout, and Rio still hasn’t quite gotten Shang’s hair to look right. The art is okay, and pretty fluid, but it’s limitations are a bit obvious when you’re shifting from a “pretty girl” artist like Tucci to a more standard heroic style. The writing is clever, but lacks a dramatic thrust, having things happen to and around our heroes, rather than having them be proactive. Of course, that’s the problem with the whole “detective waiting for a case” nature of the H4H concept.

This book isn’t bad, but it disturbingly reminds me of a couple of my old favorites: the late, lamented Champions from the 70’s and the previous incarnation of Heroes For Hire from the late 90’s. Both books had continuity bits galore, nice characterization, and spotlighted large numbers of less-popular Marvel characters. Neither lasted more than 20 issues, and I’m afraid that, without a clear goal and/or focus, this incarnation of Heroes for Hire will likewise peter out before the late teens. I kinda hope I’m wrong, but at least we have the hope of a new writer in the future to adjust the course. This was a pretty average issue, rating 2 stars out of five.



About Author

Once upon a time, there was a young nerd from the Midwest, who loved Matter-Eater Lad and the McKenzie Brothers... If pop culture were a maze, Matthew would be the Minotaur at its center. Were it a mall, he'd be the Food Court. Were it a parking lot, he’d be the distant Cart Corral where the weird kids gather to smoke, but that’s not important right now... Matthew enjoys body surfing (so long as the bodies are fresh), writing in the third person, and dark-eyed women. Amongst his weaponry are such diverse elements as: Fear! Surprise! Ruthless efficiency! An almost fanatical devotion to pop culture! And a nice red uniform.

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