Best Shots Extra: HEROES FOR HIRE, More


Heroes for Hire # 1

Written by Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning

Art by Brad Walker, Andrew Hennessy and David Ramos

Lettering by Joe Caramagna

Published by Marvel Comics

Review by Zack Kotzer

This I can get. See I’m a fairly well networked person. I’m tapped into art crowds, lit crowds, film crowds, nerd crowds and normal good people crowds. This may sound a little vain, but if you were actively told about how social you are by second parties, you learn how little subjectivity there can be in subjects like this. Honestly, it just kind of happens. And so this very subject of well-networked folks hits the Marvel Universe a la the new incarnation of the Heroes for Hire, and what once felt like overactive extroversion becomes a force of justice. A guy like me, however, can dream.

Getting paid for vigilantism may seem a little less noble than usual, especially for proven heroes like Elektra, Falcon and Black Widow, but even the most heroic can benefit from trade, even if it isn’t from currency. In short, for some passion is a reward, for others, intel. What’s going to surprise a lot of readers, including myself, is Heroes for Hire introduces not a new team (especially not the one on the cover, the majority of heroes totally absent from the issue inside) but a new system, and a seemingly effective one at that. Instead of having heroes standing about a myriad of tables discussing a myriad of directions, the first issue focuses instead on the problem, the crime, and the web of heroes who punch it into oblivion.

Walker's art is fine, nothing to stop the presses about, but Jay David Ramos is doing a very nice job on colors, letting things in the nightglow much like how you'd see in a city refusing to sleep. Some faces, okay, well, one face is drawn to near cartoon proportions, and if done so on purpose then power to Walker. Sadly I can't say who due to spoilers, but you'll know when you see it. And uncomfortably chuckle when you see it. Also, there's a constant visual allusion to The Warriors strung throughout, and that's easy brownie points from me.

The end of the issue reveals a bit of a shocker, something that could rip this concept wide open, not to mention revealing what a distraction the more predictable illumination actually was. Heroes for Hire probably won’t become a new focal point for urban justice in the Marvel universe, even coming on the heels of an event focused on just that brand of hero. Heroes for Hire could instead just be a really entertaining distraction, where heroes perform heroics, if not for money, than for friends. Or what you call friends. I should really trim down my Facebook list...


Wolverine: The Best There Is #1

Written by Charlie Huston

Art by Juan Jose Ryp and Andres Mossa

Lettering by Clayton Cowles

Published by Marvel Comics

Review by Zack Kotzer

When you see the words “Wolverine” and “parental advisory” coupling the cover of a comic book, it would be wise to take caution. Not because of the possibly graphic material within (if you are weak to that) but because this is between an invitation and sort of an admission that what’s inside could be south of the brow. Wolverine is the best at what he does, as he’s repeated so many times. And this thing that Wolverine does is typically depicted as jabbing things until they resemble a used sponge and murmuring some cowboy songs to himself. Typically that doesn’t make for great story telling, for those who care about it at that point. Wolverine has balls, unarguably, but perhaps, just perhaps, despite all temptations to fill his book with red like an elevator from The Shining, Charlie Huston may just bother to include brains and heart.

Now now, don’t cry. There is violence, and blood, and even near encounters with Logan’s genitals, something had to earn the capitalized and partially underlined “NOT FOR KIDS” on the cover. But what I appreciate is while it is there, Huston is neither trying to romanticize it nor completely excuse it. Wolverine is violent, certainly, but violence is a last resort (or at least the resort of too many beers and too many chumps) and even Wolverine seems to display a lot of reservation and embarrassment over what he’s “best at.” Where I’m going with this is, even after years and years of over exposure is Huston actually finds something for Wolverine to do that doesn’t come off as entirely routine. You may just see Huston have Logan perform tasks you’ve never really considered, like dancing and using his claws for fashion. The real excuse for violence and action now becomes that Wolverine is only trouble when you force him to be, and sadly for him, trouble literally won’t seem to leave him alone, no matter how much he wants to just have a decent night on the town.

I’ll be frank for another moment here, for different intentions. I’ve never been a big fan of Juan Jose Ryp’s work. His material with Black Summer and RoboCop left a really sinister taste in my mouth; his style becoming almost engulfed in graphic material instead of using violence in an aesthetically pleasing way. But I will admit, in this Ryp seems to be making progress towards nailing it. What was once overcrowded calamity in his line work is now becoming fine detail, and the spotted method of shading has perfectly rough touch, underground in nature, reminding me of Crumb of all people. It’s still on and off throughout, starting on a high note with Logan dueling a beautifully gruesome monster, while other times faces and people seem plastic or off, like Ryp was using real dolls for models.

There’s a great sequence where The Best There Is uses a drape of blood to show what it feels like to Wolverine when he’s overcome with rage. It’s a great tone-setter, and sort of shows that eloquence can be paired with violence if done right and removed from smug pretence. Wolverine doesn’t have to, or even want to kill, he just happens to be the best at it.


Shadowland #5

Written by Andy Diggle

Art by Billy Tan, Victor Olazaba and Guru eFX

Lettering by Joe Caramagna

Published by Marvel Comics

Review by Zack Kotzer

Shadowland has taken many detours and segues, but at the heart of it is Marvel sitting you down and slowly telling you why the heroes don’t kill. Even in extreme and far removed examples. Daredevil, who’s certainly become smothered in emotional issues in the past, has literally become possessed with rage and spreading it like a plague across the streets of New York City. In the conclusion, the heroes left standing find themselves up against Murdoch in an incarnation more powerful than ever, unfortunately against them, and more unfortunately pretty uninteresting.

Shadowland has a fairly “safe” conclusion. This isn’t massive Richters sent across the patterns of the Marvel fabric, but it is a hell of a long night for all those involved. Here we can see an illustration of the problem with gravity in fictional worlds. Even when dark magic pins pedestrians at each other’s necks on masse, it only ends up wedged in between alien sleeper cell invasions and the fabric of reality falling apart. If a story, a big event is going to be good without being important, which is fine, it should still refrain from feeling irrelevant, it should still reveal if not change. A great problem that sort of dampens down what’s going on is just the knowledge that this really isn’t Matt Murdoch as the root of the chaos. His feelings are treated as an integral force, but just labeling Murdoch as being on the other end of the strings cuts ties from his character. These morals, this evil isn’t being produced by reason or mislead logic, a bad path of judgment, no, it’s just evil. That’s boring, especially after a long history of Daredevil’s heavily character driven adventures in far better execution.

Tan’s art is good and consistent, though there are some shining moments during the worst of Murdoch’s possession. Suddenly, the once recognizable Daredevil is slightly skewed and demented, flopping about like a rubber id, sadistic and inhuman.

If this is the climax of Shadowland, then it’s unfortunately a boring one. Much returns to the status quo, though what doesn’t could turn out to be good foreshadowing to future, better antics. Characters at the focal point of the chaos seem to feel fairly blunt reactions, overwhelmed shame or general rottenness, but the reader may just experience simple regret depending on how much they’ve invested. Even Ghost Rider fans will feel underwhelmed after being misled by what would appear to be a spotlight position on the cover. I’m all for microcosmic events, but there has to be consequence, there has to be reason, there has to be more than picking sides and picking fights, and there definitely has to be more than regret.

What comics have you read so far this week?

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