Or – “Requiem For An Orka…”


Okay, I have to admit it: I’m irritated at Brad Meltzer. Stay with me here, it’ll all make sense eventually. In Justice League of America #8, it is revealed that Superman ranked Karate Kid as a 15th level fighter, and Batman as a level 12, yet Batman subsequently defeated KK in combat with a kick in the nards and a snide remark about enjoying proving Superman wrong. Digressing from my digression, let me mention that in the wrestling industry, there’s a concept called “putting over” an opponent: to wit, you make sure that your opponent looks good, that their attacks look lethal, and that they get a solid win that the crowd is behind. Karate Kid needed to be put over in that issue, and I don’t think it happened. Batman got precisely nothing out of winning a fight against Karate Kid, whereas Val (who, essentially, has been out of the spotlight since 1985) desperately needed credibility to show exactly what he and his Legion are about. Why do I bring this up here? Because, for all it’s flaws, this issue takes an older character who’s been out of the spotlight and shows us what he’s all about in a rather spectacular fashion…

H4H1.jpgLast time on Heroes for Hire, the team split in two, with the female members (Black Cat, Colleen Wing, Misty Knight and The Tarantula) taking on a new Lethal Legion, while Shang-Chi and Orka went after a rogue Doombot in the sewers. Unfortunately for Shang, The Headmen are involved, and the rogue ‘bot has been reprogrammed to be a killer. While the ladies take Man-Ape and The Grim Reaper into custody (though Reaper manages to cut Colleen’s hair, helping finally to differentiate between the girl with long straight red hair, the girl with long straight black hair, and the girl with long straight platinum blonde hair), but things are more complicated for the boys. Orka is shot through the heart by the malfunctioning Doombot, Humbug’s head has been removed and Chondu’s grafted to his body, and Shang-Chi? Shang-Chi’s calm is damaged, badly… and he’s about to lay some knowledge of the son of Fu Manchu on some third-string villain @$$…


Y’know, Humbug ain’t much for sense, but you have to give him some serious points in the “guts” category. After all, Doctor Nagan may have the head of Richard M. Nixon, but that body is pure gorilla, able to press a half a ton or more, and certainly capable of squashin’ his head like a pumpkin. Otis the secretary (who is, just as an aside, completely invulnerable) and Shang tend to the fallen Orka, who whispers to Shang, “I think I fell in love with Misty… Will you tell her?” Shang knows that Orka’s time has come, and he agrees, and as Orka starts to speak again, the Headmen interrupt him. Shang is NOT amused.


“Seemed silly at the time… to fall in love… Now maybe I think it was important…” His head lolls to the side, and I applaud Zeb Wells for investing me in Orka, the frickin’ Killer Whale. The emotional response to this scene was actually stronger than I ever expected, but my response was nothing compared to Shang’s. He started this episode with the same attitude of placid calm that has characterized all his outings with the H4H, nothing so far has managed to undo his zen. But, as Pete Senerchia was once wont to say, the mood is about to change…


I think that look indicates that we’re about to see why the legendary Si-Fan assassins feared only one man… The Doombot fires again, going for the kill, but Shang is already in motion, dodging the blow, and driving his elbow into Ruby Thursday hard enough to SEVER her head from her synthetic body. Shrunken Bones cowardly offers the return of Humbug as payment for not getting a beatdown of his own, but it’s far too late for that, and a flying side kick makes short work of the erstwhile doc. Humbug and Ruby have a short confrontation (both of them as severed heads) and Shang faces the last Headman…


All the strength in the world means nothing if you don’t have time to throw a punch, Nagan. Ruby’s robot head grows metal spider legs, and she is ready to impale Humbug’s head until Otis makes the save (and also, given how hard he punts Ruby’s head, the extra point) but Shang-Chi is still angry, repeatedly bludgeoning Nagan in the face, with angry blow after blow, fists hammering against the villains who killed his comrade. When Otis points out that Nagan’s head is as weak as any other, the rogue Doombot snorts (in a very non-robot fashion), “such is not an issue when you face a Doombot!” “I don’t suppose it is,” replies Shang, disturbingly calm…


The ‘bot blows off it’s own head (decapitation is apparently our theme for the week) and Shang is the last man standing. Chondu, in Humbug’s body, makes a panicked surrender, as Shang looks at his broken and blood-covered hands with a look of slowly dawning horror not seen since Katie Holmes’ wedding photos. Elsewhere, ex-Hero-for-Hire Paladin is given an offer he can’t refuse: 10 million dollars for a simple snatch and grab. We don’t see his target, but we know it has to be big…. big enough to make him think about reteaming with Misty and company. The rest of the H4H arrive to check on the fiasco that has occurred, to find that only 1 and 1/3 of their male members are still standing, and they’re more concerned that Shang may have shattered his phalanges then the fact that Humbug has the Yesterday Syndrome. (“Suddenly, I’m not half the man I used to be…”)


Tarantula is apparently a biophysicist (who knew?), and amazingly, she has the medicine for what ails our decapitated bug-man. Shang’s previous attraction to Tarantula, combined with his recent trauma, combined with a little sump’m sump’m means that she also has something to cure his ills…


Sadly, their connection is interrupted (“Your timing BITES, Gawain…”) by Humbug’s cry of joy at having his head reconnected. The kiss doesn’t happen (but dangit, it should), and Shang carries Orka’s last words to their destination, telling Miss Knight about Orka’s feelings. Misty’s response? “Ain’t that a @#&$… I haven’t had a date in months.” As callous as that sounds in black and white, it’s actually kind of a touching moment… The H4H find that even though they solved the diamond heists (the Lethal Legion was using them to fund their terrorist acts), they aren’t going to get paid as they didn’t get the diamonds BACK. Forced to actually count how much money they got in the little boy’s jar of change from last issue, when the prodigal Paladin arrives, bearing an offer… Help with his snatch and grab, and recieve a million bucks. A million bucks EACH. The only problem? The target is a little bit larger than your average felon…


If you ignore the end of nextwave, this is actually pretty interesting… If you’re not familiar with the works of Jack Kirby, that’s Devil Dinosaur and Moon-Boy, and they’re either from the past, the future, an alternate reality, or possibly the moon. No one is sure, and accounts vary. He was also on an X-team once, but then, honestly, who hasn’t been?

In any case, this is an interesting case, taking the usual light-hearted antics of the Heroes, and throwing in a very dark hunk of story for Shang-Chi, and killing off one of the founding members. I’m not sure that the synthesis worked for me, entirely. It’s nice to see Shang-Chi showing why he’s the most skilled martial artist in the Marvel Universe (and yes, that is canon, no matter what that issue with Wolverine showed) and his horrified response to his own violence is in keeping with the Shang we know. Still, Orka’s death was treated in a very light-and-airy way, making me wonder if it’s actually real or not… In either case, the huge mark-out moment for Shang overrides some of my dissonance about the rest of the story, and earns it 3 out of 5 stars.



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.


  1. What Wolverine story? Someone has DARED tamper with the sanctity of Master Of Kung Fu? When was this so I can buy all the copies of it and burn them on the writer’s lawn!

  2. Matthew Peterson on

    It was during the Lobdell run on X-Men, #62, I believe… Rougly the same period as the membership of “Maggott,” possibly the worst X-Man ever, with a good shot at Top Ten worst superheroes ever…

  3. Urgh…Must I remind you fools that to geta T-Rex into that position, yu;d have to break its spine, arms, tail and legs in no less than thirty-three places? THEY DIDN’T STAND UPRIGHT! It was more a sort of lurking, hunchbacked gait. I mean, honestly…

  4. Is that what Batman did? I thought so at first too, but then I thought that Black Lightning took him out from behind.

  5. Matthew Peterson on

    Salieri: That’s a really good point, but I think they were trying to draw Devil in the same style that Jack Kirby did, with little to no relation to actual reality. I don’t even know if he’s actually a T-Rex, or a similar animal.

    Raj: While I can’t confirm it 100%, I certainly read it as a nutshot (however, upon re-reading, Jeff’s position and the lightning arcs at Val’s feet support your theory as well). Yours is a better interpretation, allowing them to beat Karate Kid with teamwork, rather than Batman being better than Val.

  6. I didn’t mean you guys when I said ‘Fools’. It was 3 AM (don’t ask), and I was consumed by an all-consuming rage for the illustrator, fueled by the teachings of Paleontologist Dr. Jack Horner.

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