Heroes For Hire #11

"Heroes For Hire" has been a frustrating title for me as it bounces around from very good to not good, but issue #11 is firmly in the Very Good camp and is a particularly good issue for two great female characters of the Marvel Universe.

This month, two of Misty's agents -- Paladin and Gargoyle -- fall victim to a new "Fear Itself" monster (literally, he's calling himself "Monster") as they try to aid the survivors of destruction on Yancy Street. Monster is able to change into his victim's greatest fear, and the results pretty solidly defeat Paladin and Gargoyle. Misty rushes to their aid and, in a clever bit of writing, her greatest fear turns Monster onto himself. Elsewhere, Elektra has been tasked with quelling the riots at the super prison, The Raft, only to come face to face with The Purple Man, out of his cell and making his escape.

The smart writing here by Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning makes this story more than it might have been in the best possible ways. What was shaping up to be a rather ho-hum superhero story, is given a nice twist in how both Misty and Elektra deal with their foes. It's the kind of creative superhero work that is always enjoyable. It's nice to see Misty out of her chair and more actively taking part in an adventure. A peek into her greatest fear works as both good natural character development and a creative way to resolve the battle she joins. Similarly, Elektra's simply elegant solution for dealing with The Purple Man (a complex and difficult villain to defeat for any hero) is the kind of writing that makes characters like Elektra complete badasses in the first place.

The art by Kyle Hotz surprised me in how much I liked it, growing on me with each page. There are small things that are irritating like Elektra's truly strange water balloon breasts, but on the whole it's kinetic and compelling storytelling. Misty's design under Hotz's pen is particularly fierce and enjoyable to behold. Hotz's expression work is also very strong. You can see that when a character is expressionless, as Elektra is for much of her section, it's deliberate, and not just the artist being unable to deliver what's needed. Bob Almond's inking is strong and well fits Hotz's style, but in truth it feels a bit heavy-handed and makes the book a bit too dark. The coloring on this series also continues to be far too dark for my tastes. It's true that a lot of the book takes place at night and it certainly shouldn't be all sunshine and kittens, but the colors are dark enough that they're sometimes getting in the way of the storytelling, creating confusion, and that's where I have to draw the line.

All in all, "Heroes For Hire" #11 is one of the stronger issues, particularly in the writing and penciling. The writing delivered the kind of twists and turns that not only tell a compelling story but also build upon already existing great characters to make them even greater.

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