Heroes for Hire cuts in two. In the first section, Misty Knight goes to retrieve her heroes, Gargoyle and Paladin, before a Fear Itself monster destroys them. In the second section, Elektra under the influence of the Purple Man holds the Shroud hostage.
There’s no way I can really review this without spoiling some of it. So, Spoilers Ahoy!
Is that enough space? No?
Okay. The Elektra/Shroud portion of Heroes for Hire is the really good part. In fact, if this were on DVD, I’d advise you to fast-forward the Fear Itself bits.
The truth is that Purple Man is a loser, but the trouble is that he’s not a funny loser like say Batroc or the original villain with the pheromone-based power Mandrill. The Purple Man just isn’t spectacular. He’s purple. So what? Mandrill on the other hand is furry, nasty and not so bright. Add that up, and you get nuances of bestiality, pimping and comeuppance. Mandrill’s power you see only works on women. Purple Man is a bi-curious loser, which is why he holds the Shroud still while Elektra stabs her signature sais at the Shroud’s throat.
Well, this is the Purple Man, and things just don’t work out the way he planned. Elektra basically hands him his ass. Like the reader, the Shroud asks why she didn’t kill him and save the world the misery of experiencing this annoying loser again. Simple. Money. Elektra is getting double her usual fee if she doesn’t kill anyone. I love the turnabout. The Shroud was another Marvel version of Batman, albeit through the mystic. He however wouldn’t mind if Elektra snuffed the Purple Man. Well, it seems that bad luck can’t do it either. The Purple Man runs into a whole suitcase full of it, including a collapsing wall, and he still manages to skitter onto the shore, no worse for wear. Yes, I do believe deus ex machina was involved. Why do you ask?
Turning away from the Shroud/Elektra dynamic and snappy yet stoic interaction, we suffer through another interminable side-effect of Fear Itself, the series that just won’t go away even when it outstayed its welcome after issue two. Okay. So the monster is a patchwork of Man-Thing, Mr. Fear and Ghost Rider, only he’s got the skull of a rat, and the glow is around his torso of all places.
The creature encounters the poor folk of Yancy who were hammered by Ben Grimm now sporting the fetching accoutrement of a divine hammer. Each encounter, we get a very clear fear, but that doesn’t stop Abnett and Lanning belaboring the point in narration. For example, when the beast’s visage morphs into a demonic clown, the writers realize you’re not clever enough to use your eyes so they include a passage of narrative: “She’s Got a real thing about clowns.” Zut alors! I never would have guessed.
Surprisingly when it comes time for Misty Knight’s fear, well, I’ve read the narrative twice and tried to connect it with the Fat Albert kids reject and I still haven’t managed to puzzle any sense out of Misty’s fear. Did this involve an adventure I wasn’t privy to? I just don’t get it. Confusion doesn’t make one’s heart for this issue of Heroes for Hire grow any fonder. In fact, quite the opposite.
One thing I do get is the lush, dark artwork that makes the Elektra/Shroud team-up extra enjoyable. Both these characters depend on the darkness, yet Hotz and Almond still let colorist Jay David Ramos let you witness their heroism in the dark textured blues of Elektra’s black hair reflecting what little light peeks into the Raft, the bright reds of her strategically applied scarves and the deep navies of the Shroud’s cloak folds.
I really can’t credit the artists for anything memorable in the other section. I mean, yeah, good carnage, but it’s part of Fear Itself. Their Gargoyle is quite nice, and Paladin looks good even when on the mend. Misty Knight appears proportionate and seventies cool, but weighed against a monster that’s something you might find in the action figure line of a dollar store, that’s pretty slim. So, if you’re a Shroud and/or Elektra fan, as I am, you’ll want to add this to your collection. Other readers may just want to hold off on this issue and wait out Fear Itself.
Ray Tate’s first online work appeared in 1994 for Knotted. He has had a short story, “Spider Without a Web,” published in 1995 for the magazine evernight and earned a degree in biology from the University of Pittsburgh. Since 1995, Ray self-published The Pick of the Brown Bag on various usenet groups. In the POBB, as it was affectionately known, Ray reviewed comic books, Doctor Who novels, movies and occasionally music. Circa 2000, he contributed his reviews to Silver Bullet Comic Books (later Comics Bulletin) and became its senior reviewer. Ray Tate would like to think that he’s young at heart. Of course, we all know better.