So far, Fear Itself has been pretty much nothing but huge jerks with magic hammers breaking things and murdering people while the Avengers wring their hands about it and everyone everywhere suffers. While everyone else is stuck waiting for the main plot to advance, every tie-in is just about reacting to the 'splosions. It makes sense that a few titles would have to double-up on one aspect of the big-budget, low-complexity chaos, but unfortunately, it means Heroes for Hire is encroaching a little bit on Thunderbolts territory by dealing with escapees from The Raft.
In spite of that, Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning keep their series doing what it's supposed to do – namely, feature a revolving door of Marvel's unsung heroes who can't hardly maintain their own titles, or even get miniseries of their own in some respects. In Heroes for Hire #9, they also manage to weave together four different story threads that should hopefully sustain them through the crossover madness. Those DnA kids are always pretty ambitious, you gotta give 'em that.
First, we've got series regular Paladin somehow squaring off against the Serpent-possessed Benjamin J. Grimm, begging Control, aka Misty Knight, for some kind of backup because he's freakin' Paladin and we've already seen the Thing KO the Red Hulk. He gets a little help from an obscure Defender by the name of Gargoyle, and they're tasked with the small job of luring Grimm into a park or something so maybe he'll stop destroying Yancy Street. Then there's Shroud skulking around The Raft and beating up bad guys, only to get some backup from Elektra – who Misty is having to pay double not to kill anybody during the mess. Then there's the Purple Man's efforts to escape while trying to murder the unconscious Puppet Master (who was manipulating the H4H for his own ends before Misty finally got out from under his control) before he splits.
Finally, and potentially most interesting, is the story of Brady Briedel, a small-time narc mixer who makes designer drugs for the underworld and specialized gases for guys like Mr. Fear, all mainly because he's been bullied into it all his life. Of course, when hammer-jerks destroy his entire building, dousing him in his crazy ass chemical lab contents while he bleeds out under the rubble, something happens and he emerges in some new demonic monster kind of form, apparently freed of the fear that's so dominated his life. Something about using this big ridiculous event to actually lay the groundwork of the origin of a brand new character that will hopefully stick around a while seems like a very welcome idea.
The artwork of Kyle Hotz in this issue is a bit hit and miss, unfortunately. It's amazingly detailed but sometimes feels a little too cartoony. That works for the ugly, toothy Brady, who's rendered like a taller Jervis Tetch, but not so much when he emerges as his new hulking monster who emerges looking cross-eyed instead of threatening. Shroud looks cool, but he's perhaps a bit too eager to feature Elektra's posterior. There's also some trouble with Misty Knight, as sometimes Hotz doesn't seem to be sure how her mouth is supposed to fit on her face – and what's the deal with everybody in this series giving Puppet Master huge long girly eyelashes? Is that supposed to indicate his age? You'd think you could get that across by actually wrinkling his skin. WIth those lashes and those plucked-out-and-redrawn eyebrows, I keep finding myself going 'Cassandra Nova? Wait, no, I'm reading Heroes for Hire, not some weird old X-book."
Overall, DnA have given themselves plenty to work with here, and with this level of insanity, they could always work in more guest stars and superjerks and have a good time doing it. Here's hoping they don't drop the ball on Mr. Briedel and give him a cutesy name like Damnbulatory or Alchemica or something.
CRAVE ONLINE RATING: 7.4/10