In yet another “Spider-Island” tie-in, the Heroes for Hire — or rather, Misty Knight, Paladin, and whoever they can hustle up at the time — are tasked by Mayor Jameson with preventing the infected from leaving Manhattan. The only problem? Paladin is showing signs of infection, too. . .
Although tagged with “Spider-Island” and (in fairness) relying fairly heavily on the crossover to provide a basis for the story, this isn’t a comic about Spider-Island or the ideas that crossover is attempting to advance, but about the relationship between Misty Knight and Paladin – apparently building off the plots of the most recent “Heroes for Hire” series.
In truth, this would probably have functioned better as an issue of “Heroes for Hire”, though perhaps the status quo (or sales expectations) wouldn’t have lined up had that been the case. Abnett and Lanning do their best to justify calling this a Heroes for Hire book, with appearances from the likes of the Black Cat and Elektra, but these are cursory showings, little more than cameos. The book ends on a cliffhanger, and interviews have promised that it leads into “Villains for Hire,” thought that offers little consolation if you aren’t planning to read that series.
Art-wise, although Hotz’s artwork doesn’t quite work for the busy fight scenes early on (though it may be that the coloring is simply too muddy for it), it comes into its own towards the end. Here, the body language of the two main characters is key to the storytelling, and the tone becomes much creepier as a result of their respective transformations, playing to Hotz’s strengths. The execution of the final scenes is one of the book’s few genuinely bright points.
Overall, however, this comic simply doesn’t work in its own right. It’s a prologue, not a story in its own right. We see characters taking actions, but not the consequences of those actions. Misty abandons her post, she develops her relationship with Paladin, the plague infects them both. . . and then it ends. Admittedly, with “Amazing Spider-Man” handling the bulk of the crossover, it can’t fully resolve its plots, but this doesn’t resolve any of them. “Venom” has shown that there’s room for development on the fringes, so it’s not like it’s out of the question either.
It’s a shame, because the baseline quality of Spider-Island has been quite high so far, at least as crossovers go. “Spider-Woman” and “Deadly Hands of Kung Fu” require you to have a built-in level of interest and enthusiasm for the characters to fully entertain, but they have, at least, been complete stories. “Spider-Island: Heroes for Hire” is a genuine misfire. A pity, from such normally reliable writers.