I have to confess that before the last issue of Abnett & Lanning’s Heroes for Hire, I’d never paid much attention to Paladin. I barely even remembered the character from the last Heroes for Hire reboot, where he was a government mole who took down the entire team himself. That was mostly because Paladin was a pretty bland merc who didn’t have much to differentiate him from the likes of other Marvel throwaways like Solo (different because he, uh, could teleport, I guess) and Nomad (different because he’s now dead…).
I’m not entirely sure what Abnett and Lanning’s plans for Paladin are but I’ll give them this much: there’s plenty of reason to take Paladin seriously now. Whether Paladin is attempting to pull down the curtain of Heroes for Hire because he just doesn’t like being manipulated or for genuine worry over Misty Knight’s well-being isn’t entirely clear just yet but that works to the series’ advantage. As Danny Rand himself even says of Paladin in the issue, he’s “not a trustworthy man,” since “everything [he] says and [does] has a hidden purpose.”
Abnett and Lanning are smart to lean on the expertise angle of Paladin, with his background in innumerable operations against metahumans and the like making him a Batman-like figure of street smarts and wit. Paladin has no powers or abilities, he’s just a man who uses his lack of power as an asset, counting on it to make him seem like less of a threat than he actually is. This, of course, makes him the perfect person to unravel whatever the Puppet Master’s grand plan for Misty Knight and Heroes for Hire is.
Since Paladin himself is no stranger to playing people against each other and stealthily infiltrating operations and committing a fair amount of backstabbing, it makes sense that he’d no a trap when one is set. That tension is making this current reboot of Heroes for Hire quite the read and the team-up aspect is a nice bit of icing on the cake. Brad Walker continues to do an excellent job playing in the Marvel sandbox, offering some great rendition of Marvel heavies like Iron Fist and Ghost Rider as well as some welcome updates on C-listers like Silver Sable and, of course, Paladin.
Abnett and Lanning have proven themselves countless times to be more than capable of reviving ailing parts of the Marvel U and Heroes for Hire proves that that extends to parts of the 616 that aren’t Cosmic. Whatever the grand plan for Heroes for Hire ultimately is, I can’t wait to find out.