Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Heroes for Hire #1

I sort of lost track of writers Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning's Guardians of the Galaxy series, which seems to have morphed from an ongoing book into various miniseries that form part of a neverending Marvel cosmic crossover story. But for the time that it was running on its own, I found it pretty enjoyable, a solid old-school superhero team-up book with a variety of interesting characters and a range of ongoing subplots that were given time to develop. The only drawbacks were the ever-changing art teams and the necessity of reading several other series in order to keep up with some of the plot points (two of my biggest annoyances with mainstream superhero books overall).

Abnett and Lanning are back now with another similar book, Heroes for Hire, also arising out of a crossover event that I didn't read (Shadowland) and also featuring a large, fluid cast of B- and C-list characters, this time from the street-level section of the Marvel universe instead of the cosmic arena. The first issue jumps in with the kind of dynamic storytelling the duo brought to Guardians of the Galaxy, with the crossover having taken care of much of the back story and set-up (although it's perfectly clear what's going on even to those of us who haven't read the previous stories). It's not anything special -- the Falcon, Black Widow, Moon Knight and Elektra work to stop the smuggling of a new super-drug -- but it's action-packed and exciting, and it makes good use of the second-tier characters. It's similar in both its cast and its premise to Chuck Dixon's Marvel Knights series from a few years ago, which was an effective, unpretentious superhero series that never found the audience it deserved.

There's a twist ending involving team mastermind Misty Knight that hints at a larger story to come, and the art by Guardians veteran Brad Walker is clean and appealingly kinetic. I don't expect Abnett and Lanning to reinvent the superhero comic, but if they can keep telling these simple, direct stories and add some depth to oft-mistreated characters (and keep Walker around), then that's good enough for me. Just as long as the crossovers are kept to a minimum.

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