Or – “A Trip Down Memory Lane…”

There are a LOT of villains at liberty in the Marvel Universe.  Spider-Man’s gallery of minor-league rogues alone would fill up a decent-sized stadium, even if you were to eliminate the guys who only appeared in Marvel Team-Up.  With this many evil-doers floating around, it’s no wonder that Misty Knight has turned to their ranks to create her latest group.  Too bad somebody ELSE had the same idea…

VILLAINS FOR HIRE #3
Writer(s): Dan Abnett & Andy Lanning
Artist: Renato Arlem
Cover Artist: Rodolfo Migliari
Colorist(s): Jay David Ramos & Bruno Hang
Letterer: VC’s Joe Caramagna
Editor: Bill Rosemann
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Cover Price: $2.99

Previously, in Villains For Hire:  Misty Knight’s road has been a long one, from Jean Grey’s roomate to Daughter of the Dragon to the new leader of Heroes for Hire.  The latest iteration of the H4H team went south around the same time as Fear Itself, when it was revealed that Misty was under the control of old-school Fantastic Four villain the Puppet Master. Her gimmick got stolen by Zebediah Killgrave, the sociopath known as the Purple Man, causing Misty to get back in the business with a team of villains to oppose Killgrave’s.  There are a lot of pawns on the board, but things pretty clearly are going to have to come down to white queen (not THAT White Queen) and violet king soon enough…

THINGS ARE GETTING PERSONAL…

If you ask me, the failing of the last Heroes For Hire series was in the advertising.  The teasers were full of Spider-Man, Punisher, and more, characters who seldom, if ever appeared in the actual series.  This book evades that by giving Misty a team of also-rans and never-weres, including the new Stilt-Man who, despite being female, has appropriated the old Stilty’s name and gimmick.  (I like her a lot, actually.)  Purple Man sends his goons after Misty, and it’s fascinating to see that his squad includes Tiger Shark and Bombshell, who were on MISTY’S V4H team in issue #1.  There are some moments that bother my inner continuity geek (like the presence of Shocker, who was a Thunderbolt pretty recently, and was last seen in Spider-Island) but a satisfyingly entertaining moment comes as Team Purple and Team Knight clash.  The battle that plays out makes perfect sense in terms of small-scale street heroes, but the presence of Tiger Shark and Speed Demon keeps reminding me that there are actual superhumans present that SHOULD have had a bigger effect on the battle, which pulls me out of the narrative a time or two.

…AND IT’S A TEN-BETRAYAL PILE-UP!

In the end, that very issue comes back to bite Misty in the… arm, as T-Shark’s powers allow him to avoid her traps and such, and he tears her bionics out in a show of vicious strength.  Before he can bite off her other arm (“For balance,” he snarls… Heh.), Scourge shuts him down, and turns the battlefield over to their boss, the evil Killgrave.  (There seemd to be a lot of old Daredevil foes in play here, which is probably an intentional move on the writers’ part.)  Purple Man proceeds to beat Misty where she lies, before he realizes that she’s smiling through the kicks and punches.  When he asks what her deal is, Misty laughs in his face (a gutsy one, that Ms. Knight) and tells him that he’s not in control of the situation before revealing yet another big plot twist.  DNA have made this book a complicated series of twists and turns, and the characters are as likely to shoot each other in the back as they are to work together, reminding me pleasantly of old issues of the Thunderbolts.

THE VERDICT:  TWISTY AND TURNY AND STUFF…

Sadly, that comparison is precisely what doesn’t work for me about Viliains for Hire, the vague notion that this all feels a little bit familiar.  Having the book feature several former Thunderbolts (Speed Demon, Scourge and Shocker have all done time with the T-Bolts in their various incarnations) is certainly a shout-out by the creative team that they know they’re on this turf, but I spent most of the big fight trying to remember who did what when.  Even so, the art in this issue is pleasant, the fight with one semi-superhuman against ten B and C-List villains goes the way it should, and the surprise at the end seems to be ready to resolve one of the biggest dangling plot threads from the last Heroes For Hire series.  Villains For Hire #3 isn’t bad, far from it, but it’s not nearly as compelling as the first two, though it still brings the pain enough to earn 3 out of 5 stars overall.  Next issue’s big finale promises more of that, though, and the overall reading experience is a strong one.

Rating: ★★★☆☆

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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