It's hard to separate this new "Villains For Hire" mini-series from the sadly defunct and frequently very good "Heroes For Hire" series that preceded it, but if you can, there's a good comic here. However, it might just be that this is a good comic because it seems solidly like an issue of "Heroes for Hire." With only two pages of the "Villains For Hire" stuff sandwiched into an epilogue at the end, this comic feels a little unsure of what it's supposed to be. Still, the concept, guest stars, and almost procedural nature of the "Heroes For Hire" formula can work equally well for villains, so if we were going to lose "Heroes For Hire" it's nice to get this replacement, if only temporarily. Additionally, with the new mini-series in the hands of writers Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning, we have a good chance of getting something great.
In this issue Silver Sable, Black Panther, and Hellstorm help Misty attempt to recover a stolen container of antiquities from Stilt-Man (who is actually a woman). At the same time, Paladin intercepts Sidewinder, the mastermind behind the theft, and shuts him down. It's not the most important mission of all time, but it's solid superhero-ing and a fun read. It also sets the stage reasonably well for the epilogue, in which Killgrave, who has been looking on, informs us that he plans to use the Heroes For Hire model for his own Villains for Hire operation.
Abnett and Lanning turn in respectable work here, though nothing particularly remarkable. The characters' voices all feel accurate, we get some nice character interactions, and the plot services the "Villains For Hire" set up nicely. There is one painfully cheesy joke courtesy of Paladin, which feels wrong (or sad, if that's really a joke Paladin would make), but in general this is a fun relatively light read. It's a little sad to see Misty Knight "going home for the night" at the end of the issue, knowing that she and her awesome superhero freelancers might not be coming back, but the fact that it feels a bit open ended gives me hope that maybe we'll see these heroes back together sometime soon.
The art on the whole is good; it's very fluid, well-rendered, and nicely paced, though Misty Knight has a truly unfortunate and unreasonably silly costume design change all of a sudden that is frustrating. And there are also a few too many unnecessary ass shots for my personal tastes, but a lot of the book is quite beautiful and the characters are always excellently consistent which is key in a book with so many guest stars. The action, especially Silver Sable's opening fight scene and Black Panther's subway train sequence, are especially kinetic and visually compelling.
Though this book feels more like an epilogue to "Heroes For Hire" than a prelude to "Villains For Hire," it's a good fun book. If Abnett and Lanning can bring that to their new mini-series then we're all in for a good time.