Or – “Even Among All This Eye-Candy, It’s Still All About Shang-Chi. KYAIIIII!!”


Happy Free Comic Book Day! While you’re at your friendly local comic shop, (Possibly even Gatekeeper Hobbies, Huntoon & Gage, Topeka! Ask ’em about our Wonder Woman Volume 1 back issues!) don’t forget to engage in one of the great pleasures of comic book collecting: rifling the back issues for something you want. Comic collecting is all about the thrill of the hunt, searching down the appearances of a certain character, creator, or team, whether you want a full run of Lee/Kirby ‘Fantastic Four,’ the first appearance of Wolverine, or just issue #14 of Deadly Hands of Kung-Fu. That last one is one of MY grails (being the rare and collectible tribute to Bruce Lee issue), one of the few missing spaces in my Shang-Chi collection. Shang’s role in THIS book so far has been mostly as a supporting character and straight man, but new writer Zeb Wells has brought a different sensibility to H4H, and with it, a spotlight on the man who makes the thing sell (at least to me), the son of Fu Manchu.

Last time, on Heroes For Hire: founding mercenary Paladin threw over his teammates for a payoff from SHIELD, but was stopped in his bid to deliver H4H1.jpgCaptain America, and ousted from the team. After Ricadonna blowed up their former offices real good, the H4H moved into spacious new digs in Chinatown, but were still short of customers. Taking on TWO cases at once, the female team members took down a new Lethal Legion, while Shang-Chi and Orka freed Humbug from the clutches of the Headmen. A renegade Doombot, saved from destruction by a young boy, was returned to his original programming, and killed Orka, sending Shang-Chi into a blinding rage. The Master of Motha&#$#ing Kung Fu brought the house down, defeating all four Headman, including decapitating Ruby, and leaving Nagan the Gorilla Man a bloody pulp. Ashamed of his impulsive rage, Shang was comforted by The Tarantula, who bandaged his wounds, and the two heroes came within millimeters of a passionate kiss. Paladin suddenly returned, offering each of the H4H a cut of 10 MILLION DOLLARS (cue Doctor Evil voice) to pick up a specific target: Devil Dinosaur’s simian sidekick, Moon-Boy, believed by scientists (but what do THEY know?) to be the last surviving example of “Homo habilis.”


Team leader Misty Knight and her afro aren’t sure whether “a goose chase through a mythical land in Antarctica” is her bag, when Colleen (whose hair was chopped short two issues ago, but is once again long enough to reach down to her lovely gluteus) reports that Misty’s Mustang has been repossessed. “And New York was just starting to warm up,” sighs Misty. How do you get to Antarctica? Practice, man, practice! No, wait, that’s Carnegie Hall… My bad. The only way to get there for the H4H is a slow boat to China, minus the China bit. Luckily, team member Tarantula is qualified to pilot the what looks suspiciously like a Navy destroyer. This woman has layers like an onion/Ogre parfait, folks. The other heroes discuss how useful Tarantula is, while Shang tries to hide his crush…


“…I think we’re here.” Shang looks just a tad blue in that picture, doesn’t he? Should hired Iceman, Misty… They’ve arrived at The Savage Land, a picture-esque jungle oasis in the middle of the frozen Tundra. “My god, it’s majestic!” says Colleen, peeling out of her parka to her usual skin-tight white battlesuit. Humbug, eyes locked on Colleen’s curves, replies, “Y-yeah…” She comments that he should have dressed warmer, because he’s sweating, while Paladin runs down the mission specs. Misty is given a large container full of super-pheromones, guaranteed to bring Moon-Boy running for some Moon-Girl lovin.’ The plan is simple: spray pheromones, net Moon-Boy, enjoy a milk-bone in a Commie-free world. They split up, with Shang leading Tarantula, Paladin, and The Black Cat into the jungle, and the ladies needle Paladin mercilessly (and deservedly.) Shang, while keeping his emotions closer to the vest, obviously isn’t thrilled with the Pal, either.


Paladin mocks Shang, but you’ll notice he doesn’t start anything, knowing that The Master of Kung-Fu would mop the floor with his “Have Gun, Will Travel” purple behind. Paladin feels something on his shoulder, and tries to brush it off, thinking it’s another of the tiny butterflies… He’s only half-right, and suddenly, gunshots ring out in the jungle…


The heroes roll back down to the warm soft ground, but they ain’t laughing, and we know why… Dog and Butterfliiieeeeeee! Wait, nevermind, no dogs here. As giant bugs go, I think the Mothra squadron is more of a nuisance than life-threatening, but the team is still sent running. Meanwhile, Misty, Colleen and Humbug are having problems of their own. Confused by the strange bug languages around him, Humbug is distracted until a huge voice pierces through his mind with a Darth-Vader-esque “YOU ARE HIM…” Suddenly, all the voices start speaking at once, filling his mind with a dreadful din of insects who want to find him. Humbug staggers forward, smashing into Colleen and shattering the tube of pheromones all over her.


It could indeed be worse, Colleen, you could be Bo Derek. “They’re washing me like a HORSE!!” All dialogue is better when delivered by a non-actress on Quaaludes, right? With Colleen’s new status as Most Popular Girl at Hominid High assured, we check in with the Butterfly Crushers, and find Shang face-down in the H2O at the base of a waterfall. He suddenly awakes, gasps for air, and crawls to safety… sort of. Anne Wilson fans rejoice, because Shang found the missing Dog to go with his Butterfly! Not only that, they’re the extra-rare Longhorn Sabretooth Fuzzy Canine People Eater variety, and they’re angry. His reflexes don’t fail him, though, and Shang fights them off. Leaping to a nearby tree branch, (his new shirtless costume looking for all the world like Liu Kang, though both are really just echoes of Bruce Lee) Shang is knocked to the ground by one of the beasties, broken tree branch still in hand…


As he lays down his arms, Misty, Colleen and Humbug are overrun by apes, and Misty tries to get Humbug to do something. He’s paralyzed with fear, and the ladies have to fight. “Fine, dammit! You think this is the first time we’ve had to beat men off with a stick?” Heh. Misty is awesome, but as the first gorilla attacks, he’s struck by a stone from above, and Moon-Boy emerges from the trees, stick in hand. The three of them engage the apes, and Misty quips, “Look at that, Colleen. I told you you’d have to leave New York to find a good man.” Back in the dogpack of certain death, Shang stand ready for his fate, only to see Tarantula leap out of nowhere, arm and leg blades slicing the entire pack to ribbons… He grabs her arm, too late. “You… enjoyed that?” He’s obviously horrified, but Tarantula responds in her own manner…


Oh, he’s going to regret that in the morning… As Shang and Tarantula give in to their urges, Colleen and Misty fight to keep the gorillas from doing the same. Moon-Boy is a competent fighter, (Misty: “Doesn’t your new boyfriend have a big red dinosaur for occasions like this?” Colleen: “I guess we’re not at the stage where I meet the family!”) but Humbug… not so much. Still hopelessly paralyzed with fear, the ‘Bug can’t move, until one of the apes bites him on the shoulder, and he reflexively screams for help.


Moon-Boy gets his new paramour and Misty out of the way of the stampede, but they can only watch in horror as Humbug is chased down, and apparently eaten, only his shredded costume left behind. Colleen is in tears, wondering what kind of place they’ve gotten into. We see Paladin and an unconscious Black Cat (apparently roasting up a giant butterfly to eat. EWW!), and Shang and Tarantula lying on the ground with Shang’s face looking like I imagine Katie Holmes did on her honeymoon when it finally got through to her, and the final image seems to be giant cockaroaches devouring the last of Buck Mitty/Humbug.

I cannot begin to tell you how much the art has changed the feel of this series. The last two issues felt very much like superhero stories, with the more traditional art showing them looking very staid and square-jawed. This issue, artist Clay Mann (what, he’s a golem?) gives us a darker and more impressionist feel, which totally fits for the alien and foreboding Savage Land. I complain about Leinil Yu, but THIS is how you do ‘dark and gritty’ while maintaining artistic quality, in my view. His Shang-Chi is awesome, as good as Paul Gulacy was back in the day, his Colleen Wing returns to her slim and lithe body, Misty’s superfro is back in all it’s glory, and even the extraneous Black Cat annoys me less than usual. It’s like a whole new book, folks, and one that I really enjoyed. Even having picked up Heroes for Hire in the middle of the Headmen/Legion arc, Zeb Wells’ feel for the characters was obvious, and this feels like the first time we really see HIS H4H in action. Crisp dialogue, good pacing, and a neat use of the “Strangers In A Strange Land” motif makes Heroes for Hire #9 a very good read, a 4 out of 5 star effort.


The Author

Matthew Peterson

Matthew Peterson

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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  1. May 5, 2007 at 1:47 pm — Reply

    Hey…looks like the new Costume Humbug has for WWH will come from a specific place…

    Oh, and Kudos to the Bloom County Reference. “And the Moral of the Story: ‘I Want A Milk Bone’.”

  2. May 6, 2007 at 2:53 am — Reply

    Also…doesn’t the fact that we see Misty’s afro from behind so many tiemsremind you of ‘The Venture Bros.’ very own Anna Baldavitch?

  3. May 6, 2007 at 8:10 am — Reply

    Perhaps a little, but I’m just impressed that she’s reached her former volume of hair. The new looks for Misty and Colleen are part of what makes this title fun, with Misty channeling Foxxy Cleopatra and Colleen doing the all-white ‘Kill Bill’ riff. Both of these characters have been around for literally decades (Misty since Marvel Premiere #20 in 1975 and Colleen appearing one issue before that) and they’ve seldom anchored their own title…

    I have to say that the whole lineup of the H4H (aside from Black Cat, who I don’t care for) is showing a lot of interesting influences, and I’m saddened that so few people are digging it.

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