Or – “A Case Where Even I Recognize That A Crossover Can’t Hurt…”

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I’ve been reading Heroes For Hire on the appeal of the former Deadly Hands of Kung Fu castmembers Shang-Chi and the Daughters of the Dragon, and very much enjoying it’s retro feel. It’s a book that’s out-of-step with the rest of the Marvel Universe, adventuring in a more classic mode with actual supervillains and an old-school vibe. In spite of that (or, more likely, BECAUSE of that) the sales haven’t been as impressive as I would have hoped. This week, for the first time ever, H4H has sold out at the store (Gatekeeper Hobbies, Huntoon & Gage, Topeka! Ask us about the Harbinger Hardcover!) due entirely to a World War Hulk crossover and I couldn’t be happier… The question is, how many of the new buyers will stay?

Previously on Heroes for Hire: Former employee Paladin returned with an enticing H4H1.jpgoffer… One million dollars each to help him procure what SHIELD scientists believe to be a surviving member of Homo Habilis, an earlier form of life who may hold the key to stopping any number of diseases. Traveling to the Savage Land, the team is overwhelmed and separated by the strangeness of it all, with team member Humbug seemingly eaten, Black Cat injured, and Shang-Chi and the Tarantula getting their respective freaks on. Misty and Colleen were able to find the Habilis, who was discovered to be Moon-Boy of Jack Kirby fame, but ran afoul of Devil Dinosaur, his constant companion. Humbug, for his part, was not eaten, but was captured by a hidden hive of giant insects who indoctrinated him (increasing his bug powers) and warned him of the approach of the Hulk’s warbound ship, due to the presence of insectoid members Miek and the brood drone. The team returns home to New York, expecting their bounty, but instead finding the city nearly abandoned save for SHIELD agents and superhumans…

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Agent Khanata, for all his experience with the Agents of Atlas, probably ought to know better than to confront a bunch of superhumans without getting the whole story. After all, putting on a costume isn’t exactly the kind of thing that you do when you’re perfectly rational and normal. And maybe I’m just over-sensitive because of the hentai cover, but the middle panel showing Misty’s abs, hips and chest kind of sticks out at me, no pun intended. Sure, she’s attractive, but could we frame her HEAD in the shot, please? Luckily for Derek, he has a wacky costumed loon of his own to cover his back…

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Tarantula and Scorpion come to a classic Mexican standoff, each seemingly willing to kill the other out of nothing more than macho… It’s interesting what they have in common, though: two young women, vicious personalities, mysterious pasts, dyed hair, both taking their name from an old Spider-Man villain. I wonder if the Marvel villains have a union that can sue them for copyright infringement? Either way, Khanata puts Scorpion back on her lease, and explains that they’re all just jumpy about the “Hulk situation.” Having missed the last couple of days, the team is confused, and Derek explains that New York will be razed in less than 48 hours by an angry Hulk. Humbug cryptically replies, “You need not fear the monster. Fear the Warrior-beetle and his queen…”

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As the team reluctantly prepares to mobilize, Black Cat takes a moment to try and convince Paladin to join them… Being an utter scoundrel, the purple guy turns her down, indicating that he doesn’t work for free. She tries to make a connection, actually letting down her guard, telling him he’s good in a pinch. Paladin smirks, and replies, “And you look good naked, but that doesn’t mean I’m coming with you.” She rages at him, finding what she thinks is proof that he did more than just dress her wounds last issue. Returning to the team, Misty asks if Pally is in or out… “No. We’ll just have to gas OURSELVES halfway through the mission…” Heh. Humbug, receiving some sort of signal or information from SOMETHING, loses his cool and flips out…

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Once again, Shang seems to be the only team-member with a real sense of decency, pursuing Humbug into the city. Curiously, he finds a pile of rubble, built up like an anthill, though I’m not sure if it was built by heroes, or by something else. Humbug clambers to the top of one of the piles, following a trail of chemical information…

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The drones seem to be nesting, and Humbug receives an image, encoded in the chemical trail, showing their plan, as the Brood queen lays hundreds upon thousands of eggs in a ruined wreck of New York City. Humbug is overcome by the images and the onslaught of information, falling nearly unconscious, muttering that they will make “a world… ruled by insects…” The other H4Hers arrive, and see the colony at work, but are stunned to see one of the hivelings standing just a few feet away. Black Cat, ever aware of the animal kingdom, thinks that he’s just afraid, and carefully approaches, trying to make friends with him.

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Eww ewww EWWW! The creature hisses and runs, racing back to the hive to disseminate that intruders are among them. He bumps into a recovered Humbug, who gentle reaches down… AND RIPS OFF THE CREATURES HEAD. The group is totally icked as the Hivelings guts fly everywhere, and Humbug then dismembers the body, splashing them all with ichor. Black Cat loses her lunch, as the others demand an explanation…

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And again with torso shots. The cheesecake has been one of my only complaints with this entire series, and I’m bothered by how little that looks like “women trying to wipe stuff off” and “women sensually rubbing unknown fluids into their skin.” The main story ends here, as Humbug apparently leads the team to find Miek and the brood. We do get, however, a backup story, featuring the Scorpion. Sneaking across the rooftops beneath the notice of a conspicuous Ms. Marvel, she encounters a couple of looters, and leaps into action, musing on her new identity.

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Her actual mission involved infiltrating what seems to be a SHIELD weapons depot, filled with superhuman artifacts. I recognize part of a Stilt-Man armor, what looks like The Melter’s chest unit, and literally hundreds of unidentified blasters. Scorpion’s handlers send her looking for aisle fourteen, seemingly unaware that anther person is in the warehouse. As her stalker sneaks up, Scorpion ambushes HIM, revealing the culprit to be Paladin, hoping to steal and resell the weapons within. Zapping her with his stungun, the big P suddenly wonders why SHE was there…

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As much as I dislike Paladin, the Scorpion comes across as a complete Mary-Sue throughout the issue, and her sudden reappearance and push bugs me. I don’t have a whole lot of love for either the ruthless animal cliche or the hot girl killer cliche, and the new Scorpion has always struck me as an attempt to recapture the flash-in-the-pan success of X-23.

Either way, the second story isn’t as good as the first, and neither does much more than set the scene for the coming crossover issues… While not bad, by any means, it just sort of seems to fill the time. The ‘Hooters Waitress’ shots may have affected my opinion as well, but overall it’s just an average outing. As a long-time reader of H4H, I wonder if people picking it up just for the crossovers are going to think it’s essentially an exposition-heavy cheesecake-fest, when there’s generally something more to it. Heroes for Hire #11 earns 2.5 out of 5 stars, working as an okay review of where we stand, and giving us the first glimpses of the things that the rest of the Warbound may have planned without Hulk’s knowledge… Hopefully these hints will turn into a compelling story over the next few issues.

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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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12 Comments

  1. Brent F.
    June 26, 2007 at 2:16 pm — Reply

    Out of context that creature blood looks like butter and the girls just look like they’re massaging it in. I’m surprised that solicited cover released before has the skulls of the women and not just their rib cages and pelvises.

  2. Mark I.
    June 26, 2007 at 2:29 pm — Reply

    I’m shocked to be saying this, but after several Marvel crossover duds, WWH might end up being freakin’ great.

    As for the cheesecake factor, hey, at least the little Oompa-Loompa bugs smelled Black Cat’s FACE.

  3. June 26, 2007 at 3:04 pm — Reply

    My enjoyment of this title is ruined in that the Penciller can’t seem to stop basign Black Cat on Billie Piper. NO-ONE shoudl EVER be based on Billie Piper. It just is NOT pretty.

  4. June 26, 2007 at 10:13 pm — Reply

    My enjoyment of this title is ruined in that the Penciller can’t seem to stop basign Black Cat on Billie Piper. NO-ONE shoudl EVER be based on Billie Piper. It just is NOT pretty.

    Maybe I lack the British context on Billie, but I can tell you this: Rose Tyler is smokin’ hot. Inhumanly so… Third best-looking Doctor Who companion ever.

  5. clay
    June 26, 2007 at 10:28 pm — Reply

    as the guy who drew the book i don’t even know who billie piper is. as for the “cheescake”.. i don’t picture myself as that kind of artist. your first example, i just chose a low shot and that’s what i could fit in . if it were chang there, it would be his bare chest. as for the second example. i chose not to have faces in the shot. faces in every panel is boring. i don’t believe what i draw alone could lead to “cheesecake”. is it the book that has this image? other artist? #13 cover.idon’t know. maybe it’s on me, but i don’t see it

  6. June 26, 2007 at 10:59 pm — Reply

    as the guy who drew the book i don’t even know who billie piper is.

    She’s a British actress/pop singer, apparently equivalent to a Britney Spears. She does bear a resemblance to the face you’ve chosen for Black Cat…

    as for the “cheescake”.. i don’t picture myself as that kind of artist. your first example, i just chose a low shot and that’s what i could fit in . if it were chang there, it would be his bare chest.

    As I said, I’m sure some of it is just me overreacting to the tempest in a teacup about issue #13’s cover, certainly. The fact that Bill Tucci and Al Rio are both known for drawing very voluptuous women may have given the book a bit of a reputation… Given that Misty’s costume was designed for maximum cleavage and abs certainly helps.

    as for the second example. i chose not to have faces in the shot. faces in every panel is boring. i don’t believe what i draw alone could lead to “cheesecake”. is it the book that has this image? other artist? #13 cover.idon’t know. maybe it’s on me, but i don’t see it.

    Since you created the art in question and didn’t intend the message I got, I’d say yes, the book has at least some of that image. Certainly having four females in the tight catsuits shown can lead us down that particular path. For me, the second example still reads a bit more quasi-sexual in body language than I might have expected, but that probably says more about me than your drawings. Either way, thanks for giving us your perspective (Heh…) on the situation. Hopefully I wasn’t too schmucky in my presumptions…

  7. June 27, 2007 at 1:57 am — Reply

    However, I can’t seem to get over how cool Humbug looks. Imagine…he used to be ‘The Most Off-Beat Supervillain Yet”…

    http://www.superdickery.com/images/stupor/3059_4_0019.jpg

    …And NOW look at him!

  8. clay
    June 27, 2007 at 6:26 am — Reply

    “Hopefully I wasn’t too schmucky in my presumptions…”

    not at all, i enjoy it.

  9. Brent F.
    June 27, 2007 at 8:50 am — Reply

    Scorpion’s appearance kind of makes them all look like a group of Mortal Kombat rejects.

  10. June 27, 2007 at 10:15 am — Reply

    “Shang-Chi… WINS.”

  11. Mark I.
    June 27, 2007 at 10:33 am — Reply

    Brent, that makes them even funnier to me. I think they need to add a robot ninja that’s constantly smoking and maybe have a laser coming out of Humbug’s eye. Oh, and give Black Cat a headband.

  12. June 27, 2007 at 1:20 pm — Reply

    They should have Ant-Man and Blade join. That’d sort out hte obligatory Robot/Cyborg member…

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