Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning are not my favorite writers. I don't hate them. I found their take on Nova and The Legion of Super-Heroes simply wrong, and there's usually something in an Abnett and Lanning story that makes me wince. However, this issue of Heroes for Hire is a masterpiece.
Misty Knight, proving that you don't need to be a crippled woman to be a strategist, sics Paladin on a group of ninjas protecting a truckload of Atlantean narcotic. Along the way, Spider-Man drops by to say hello, and a certain mercenary makes his presence known with un botte au visage.
Spidey met Misty even before she received the bionic arm. He and the Human Torch saved her from a Christmas mugging. He also encountered the Paladin in an easily forgotten issue of Marvel Team-Up. Did I think that anybody would recall? No. Did Dan Abnett & Andy Lanning remember? Oh, yes.
Spidey immediately takes the Mickey out of Misty's new moniker. Misty of course protests, but Spidey will have none of it: "No. I know you. I know your voice. You're..." And you know what? This is what prevented me from buying the first few issues of Heroes for Hire. This whole idea of Misty Knight not sounding like Misty Knight. The ruse about "Control" and her getting funky like Venus Flytrap. Having somebody like Spidey coming out of her past and calling her on it is refreshing. This is what Spidey does. He's a Byronesque clown with a scary set of super-powers that tend to be humiliating for the opposition, and he's way smarter than people credit him to be. Part of Spidey's charm is that his foes and his friends underestimate him.
For an encore, Abnett and Lanning give Spidey the perfect opening line when he renews acquaintances with Paladin: "Whatcha doin?" I mean seriously. He's acting like an annoying, little kid, which is absolutely perfect! Paladin is completely flummoxed by Spider-Man. The tables turn. Originally, Paladin thought Spidey was a chump because he didn't charge for his services, but now Spidey is less of an outsider. He's an Avenger and a member of the FF. He's respected, if not liked.
Oh, and Brad Walker? He directs some of the best Spidey body language I've seen. He illustrates Spidey doing things that only a spider can. When Spidey whines "Whatcha doin?" he hangs upside down while sticking to his webline just by his toes.
Spidey's whole rationale for this adventure is to be Paladin's "Special Friend," and Paladin can't stand it. This produces some hilarious friction between the two protagonists, and Spidey's expressions through his mask are absolutely priceless.
A tip of the fedora also goes to inker Drew Hennessey and colorist Jay David Ramos. Hennessy shadows every thing as if Heroes for Hire were a dark action flick. The light plays on the material of Paladin's costume. You see only a residue of purple, but when Spider-Man appears...He's like this brilliant red and blue creature cursing the darkness, as if he refuses to let things become too serious.
Spidey amuses Misty. His humor is contagious. He royally ticks off the Paladin, and you really don't believe Abnett and Lanning will top their initial efforts, but they do with their surprise guest star. I'll say no more. Suffice to say, you must buy this issue of Heroes for Hire.
EDITOR'S NOTE: Matthew Z. Rios also reviewed Heroes for Hire #6. Read his thoughts, too!
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