Heroes For Hire #3 - 'Trace Elements' - Abnett, Lanning, Walker, Hennessy and Ramos
Story - Throughout their exemplary tenure on Marvel's Cosmic Books, Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning (DnA) have, alongside writing kick-ass epic space operas, made it their mission to revitalise and revamp as many previously lame space characters as possible. Losers like Star-Lord, Rocket Raccoon, Mantis and Jack Flag were all turned into something worth reading (although much of the work with Jack Flag was done by Warren Ellis in Thunderbolts, it was still awesome that DnA picked him up in such a surprising way. Even Nova (who was always pretty cool) was improved under the pen of DnA. But now, this dynamic duo have been brought crashing down to Earth, and seem to have taken to making street-level characters awesome just as they did in Space.
Heroes For Hire is a book rooted in the 1970s, the very concept comes from Luke Cage, Power Man, possibly the most 70s thing ever, but the whole book is full of classic 1970s Marvel characters, from bigger guns like Iron Fist, Falcon and Ghost Rider, to minnows like Misty Knight and Satana. The 1970s was a golden (although technically Bronze) period for Marvel, with so many awesome concepts and characters being thought up, and it is only recently that the wheel of nostalgia has turned to them, rather than the 60s. It's great to see these characters who in today's market don't really have the pull to merit their own solo series have a book to call their home. Heroes For Hire under DnA has become a one-stop shop for anyone less than a B-Lister, and every issue promises something different, a done in one, almost Marvel Team-Up style jaunt.
But of course, that sort of thing doesn't really cut the mustard today, and DnA have sensibly framed the various team-ups and adventures with an ongoing story. You see, whilst our heroes may think H4H is being run by Misty Knight, it isn't, she's been kidnapped and is being controlled by the Puppet Master. The reasonings behind why exactly Puppet Master is doing this are very interesting, and Paladin's attempts to find out why are the connective tissue that holds Heroes For Hire together. They provide the reasonings for why Moon Knight fights a Dinosaur, and however awesome that is, it does need an explanation.
One of the other things I've liked about this series so far is how it puts classic Marvel Universe elements, right next to real world criminal activities. So, for example, the first issue had an Atlantean Mafia working in the states, and this issue featured the sexual trafficking of women from the Savage Land. Some readers may find this melding together of the fantastic and the horribly real a bit unsettling, and maybe that it's making light of serious issues, but for me, it's an inspired idea, and serves to enhance the Marvel Universe, and really reinforce it's claims to be more realistic than other superhero universes. In a world where Daredevil rubs shoulders with the Silver Surfer, this makes perfect sense, and is a middle-ground between two schools of superhero thought that hasn't really been explored.
Plus it means we get to see normally uber-serious characters like Moon Knight fight a Velociraptor, which as previously noted, was awesome. This particular issue was mostly made up of two fight scenes, first of all the aforementioned Moon Knight/Dino, and also Paladin Versus Iron Fist. One of these is standalone, the other is part of a larger story, and that's this book's main strength, each issue will give you something fresh, but it's all part of a bigger picture, and in the current market, most books struggle to do even one of those things.
Art - Brad Walker is an artist I've liked since he drew a fun Jimmy Olsen story for Kurt Busiek during his run on Superman (it was one of the few tolerable elements of Countdown), and I also very much enjoyed his work with DnA on Guardians Of The Galaxy, where he and Wes Craig alternated issues during the book's strongest period. His style doesn't appear to be everyone's cup of tea, but I like it, he can draw fight scenes well, and he can do facial expressions. What more could you ask? He draws a mean dinosaur too.
Best Line - 'Making a note here ... "sometimes Moon Knight watches the Flintstones"...' It's that juxtaposition of the Marvel Universe and the actual Universe in microcosm.