The strengths of Marvel’s new “Heroes For Hire” series have been numerous. Abnett and Lanning have plotted the issues tightly using a great formula that delivers both satisfying resolutions in each issue while simultaneously weaving a larger overarching narrative in the mystery surrounding Misty Knight. Add to that strong consistent writing; a fascinating rotating cast of both big and small heroes going on pretty cool missions; and very capable, frequently flat out gorgeous art by Brad Walker and Andrew Hennesey, and it’s no surprise that this series has been so fantastic. However in issue #4 we lose a lot of what worked so well for the first three issues.
In issue #4 we get a resolution to the revelation that Misty Knight, as Control, the epicenter of Heroes For Hire 2.0, is being manipulated and held captive by The Puppet Master. Though it’s refreshing to see writers getting to the heart of the mystery without dragging it out unnecessarily, the actual resolution here is a bit underwhelming and lacks the creativity and nuance of the first three issues. It also unravels the overarching narrative that was helping to hold some of this formula together in such an interesting way.
The story also suffers in that it reverses the formula that was working so well for the first three issues -- namely the rotating cast of heroes for hire, which was compelling and fast paced and completely intriguing. I can see why Abnett and Lanning step out of the formula for this issue, but since the resolution to Misty’s situation is not that rewarding, it leaves a feeling that there was perhaps a better way, one more in the spirit of the book thus far, to resolve things. Abnett and Lanning do a nice job giving Misty her own agency in freeing herself rather than just being rescued, which probably would have felt equally unrewarding, but it ignores some more interesting stuff they were doing in previous issues, like Paladin spending a considerable amount of time trying to solve the mystery. It’s likely that elements of that are still going to play out in the next issue, but it felt off to depart from it so suddenly here. Instead this plays out as pages of the villain explaining what he has been up to and then an unsatisfying battle inside Misty’s mind.
The story problems aren’t aided any by the art, which, while perfectly acceptable is definitely a step down from the powerful and engaging Brad Walker pencils that readers were treated to in the first three issues. The storytelling here is adequate and clear enough but it lacks all the punch and well…badassery of Walker’s work.
This is not a bad comic, but it suffers quite a bit when compared with its previous issues. The bright spot is the ending, which leaves us with an powerful cliffhanger as other issues have, and which hopefully signifies a return to what has been working so well in the series thus far. Overall, though this is an unsatisfying issue on the whole, the book has otherwise been exceptional. Hopefully we can get back to business as usual in the next issue.