by Charlie Brooks, CMRO Contributing Writer
Heroes for Hire
Written by Zeb Wells, Art by Alvin Lee & Ale Garza
Published: December 2007
According to Marvel’s checklist, World War Hulk officially ends with Heroes for Hire #15. There are still aftermath comics to deal with, but this issue wraps up the crossover part of the actual event. And while Heroes for Hire #15 doesn’t exactly wrap things up with a bang, it’s a decent enough story in its own right.
The goal for our titular team this issue is to rescue Colleen Wing and Tarantula, who are being tortured for the alleged murder of one of Miek’s hivelings. The actual murderer, Humbug, stands against them and has begun mutating into some sort of bug-thing after being implanted with the Brood queen’s eggs. Humbug escapes the battle, but Paladin’s magical rat-bastard powers kick in, and we find that he can track the whereabouts of Colleen and Tarantula by a radioactive implant he slipped into the group’s food. I get the feeling that Paladin might be a pet character for writer Zeb Wells, because he has the annoying tendency to tell the group how clever and awesome he is while not really being all that clever or awesome. His presence in this story continues to be more annoying than essential.
The group does rescue their lost comrades, and Shang-Chi goes off on his own to exact vengeance upon Humbug. As it turns out, that vengeance is already happening independent of Shang-Chi or the rest of the group – the “hivemind of Earth” had designated Humbug as an infiltrator to destroy the Brood’s eggs, and his body mutates, destroying both himself and the would-be hivelings. Meanwhile, some robot insect manages to sterilize the Brood queen, ensuring that she will be unable to hatch more of her species. Shang-Chi’s contribution here is to kill Humbug and put him out of his misery. This plot thread is mildly frustrating because the Heroes for Hire have next to nothing to do with it. Since the hivemind of Earth accomplishes everything, it’s almost as if we should be reading a comic about that instead.
There’s a lot to criticize about this issue, but that’s not to say it’s worth skipping. There are several good parts. The trauma that Colleen and Tarantula have gone through is well-displayed, and the cadre of artists (four pencilers in all) manage to remain mostly consistent while rendering the conflict inside Shang-Chi well. The kicker at the end of the issue, where Paladin collects Moon Boy as per the deal he had made with Misty Knight earlier in exchange for his help, highlights the problems of the group well. By selling the creature to Paladin as though he doesn’t matter, Misty has effectively sold out the values of the Heroes for Hire. As Colleen says, “We sold the stuff inside us that was good.” Misty tells her that the group is still together and they’re still Heroes for Hire, but Colleen retorts that they should just have been heroes. And that’s a pretty solid ending for the issue. It highlights that heroism isn’t necessarily easy, and that not everybody is cracked up to be the Avengers or the Fantastic Four. Some people try to be good guys, but they fall short. And this series is their story.
The Heroes for Hire portion of World War Hulk is a mixed bag. Uneven in pace and with some art that ranges from inconsistent to outright sexist, it still manages to have a decent underlying story, some character development, and a highlight of the book’s themes. This book does not compare to Marvel’s top titles of the era, but does have its merits and is worth a look-through for somebody interested in reading about a book that explores how hard it is to be heroic. If you’re rummaging through Marvel’s archives or just looking to collect the crossovers with World War Hulk, Heroes for Hire is at least worth a scan-through.