by Charlie Brooks, CMRO Contributing Writer
Heroes for Hire (v2)
Written by Zeb Wells, Art by Clay Mann
Published: August 2007
One of the unfortunate conflicts in the comic book industry is the eternal struggle between creative desires and business necessities. The business necessity says that during a crossover event, lower-selling titles need to be included in the event to serve as a jumping on point for those who might otherwise not read them. The creative desire is to just tell the story the writers and artists envision and assume that good sales will come from good stories. Heroes for Hire #11 is a case where the desires of the creative team seem to have clashed with the necessities of the business, and the comic is a mixed bag as a result.
When a book gets pulled into a crossover event, the biggest goal from a marketing perspective is to make it a good time for new readers to get interested in the comic. It is ideally supposed to be an accessible tale that introduces readers to the comic, tells us about the characters, and gives a new audience a reason to continue with the title after the event ends. In that regard, Heroes for Hire #11 swings and misses. If you haven’t been reading this title, you’ll be in the dark at the start of the story. The Heroes for Hire team is flying back from a mission in the Savage Land, and all the recap page does is inform readers that Moon Boy has joined the team, while Paladin betrayed them. Early on, we’re treated to some banter about the sexual escapades between two members of the team, but we really aren’t given a feel for the characters’ personalities. On the bright side, this means that those who have been reading this book from the get-go don’t have to sit in a holding pattern while other readers are brought up to speed. On the other hand, that new audience is key to keeping the book going, and leaving them in the dark is not a good way to help long-term sales.
But let’s ignore the business realities of this story and focus on the creative question of whether it is entertaining on its own or not. That, too, unfortunately, is a mixed bag. On the one hand, the main story breaks from the formula that other World War Hulk crossovers have used, in that it is not focused on the heroes taking on the Hulk himself. Instead, the Heroes for Hire are brought in to help evacuate New York City when the Hulk invades, but soon find the group of bug-like alien refugees the Hulk has brought with him from the planet Sakaar. Humbug, who has gone through some significant trauma recently, goes ballistic, kills one of the young bugs, and then brings the team to the Hulk’s stone ship, all under the conviction that the bug-aliens are there to colonize the Earth. This is a pretty good start to the tale – we have something new going on in World War Hulk and we have unanswered questions about Humbug’s sanity and whether he might be right. It’s not great, but it’s a good start.
The bad part of the story revolves around its presentation. Comics have a reputation for being sexist and obsessed with over-the-top violence, and this issue doesn’t help matters much. The female characters are not really given any unique personality or voice to differentiate themselves from one another, with the only real details given being who is sleeping (or not sleeping) with whom. There are several panels where the layout gives us a female character talking in the foreground, only to have her head out of the panel and the visual focus being on her breasts. In the violence end, we get a shot of Humbug ripping an alien child’s head right off its shoulders and then dousing the rest of the team in their blood, with very little reaction or objection from the rest of the team (other than the Black Cat vomiting, which is unfortunately played for comedy). I’m not one to suggest that gorgeous women or violence should be taken out of comics, but a little subtlety would help quite a bit. It is possible to have attractive women and big action moments in comics while still making them classy, which this issue fails at.
Behind the main story, we also have backup tale that focuses on the Scorpion – no, not the Spider-Man villain, but a new-ish character who looks somewhat like Reptile from Mortal Kombat and is immune to all toxins. The backup does a bit of fleshing out of Scorpion’s character as well as Paladin, the guy who betrayed the Heroes for Hire in the previous storyline. It unfortunately doesn’t mention the fact that the new Scorpion may or may not be the daughter of Bruce Banner, who had a relationship with her mother in college, thus missing a potential interesting wild card in World War Hulk, but that at least will be touched upon later in this crossover event.
Ultimately, Heroes for Hire #11 is a promising start with a few presentation problems. It’s taking a crack at World War Hulk from a different angle, which is good. It struggles in that if you aren’t already familiar with the team, you’ll be in the dark for most of the issue. It also has the typical presentation problems that give comics a bad reputation. But the potential is there, and it will be interesting to see where the story goes as the World War Hulk crossover continues to progress.