Waiting for the Trade
by Bill Miller
Villains For Hire: Knight Takes KingBy Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning
Collects Villains for Hire 0-4.
Why I Bought This: It showed up the discount bin of my favorite local comic shop. I tend to like the occasional limited series from the villains’ perspective anyway, and this one is written by DnA, who earned a lot of points with me for their work on Guardians of the Galaxy.
The Plot: When Misty Knight learns the Purple Man is putting together a crew of super-villains in a bid for underworld dominance she decides to secretly put together a rival crew of villains to muddy the waters and foil his plan.
Chapter 1 – Misty Knight has Silver Sable working for her. Sable comes across Stilt Man (technically a woman, who has assumed the name of the old DD villain). This version has extending arms as well making her a Doc Ock lite. Misty calls in Black Panther for back-up and he’s able to defeat Stilt Man after a two page fight scene. Panther then finds a cave near the subway and follows it to a group of Mole Man’s moloids and one of his monsters (but no Mole Man). Misty sends Damien Hellstrom to help and he easily puts the monster down via magic. Paladin meanwhile encounters Sidewinder and takes him down with ease. In the epilogue we see Purple Man has been watching the night’s goings on and admires the way Misty uses the 'deploy various heroes from a remote central location' strategy, and thinks the tactic could be just as effective for super-villains.
Chapter 2 – Purple Man’s first recruit is Shocker, who he has black out the city. Avalanche then creates a mini earthquake on a bridge just as an armored truck is crossing it, causing it to fall of the bridge and on to a boat, where Death Stalker is waiting. He kills the guards but as he is about to make off with the money, Tiger Shark uses his super strength to stop the getaway boat. Avalanche attempts to assist only to be hit with a bomb by Bombshell. Death Stalker has a kill touch and figures he can take on both rival villains but then Crossfire sniper rifles him through the head. Purple Man and his assistant Headhunter call in Scourge to take down the rival crew. While he’s enroute Bombshell blows the truck open and gets the loot to a plane piloted by Nightshade. Scourge engages Crossfire, as Death Stalker’s corpse pops back up and sneaks aboard the plane. He uses his death touch on Nightshade causing her skin to melt off and reveal a Terminator like robot underneath, who then self-destructs the plane causing the loot to fall in the water for Tiger Shark to recover. In the aftermath Purple Man fumes about the rival crew. He tells Headhunter to both buy more serious villains to fight them and to try to bribe some of them to his side. Purple Man meanwhile sets about investigating who is running the rival crew. Over at Crossfire’s headquarters the main prize is a mob PDA with access to off-shore accounts. They make contact with their benefactor, who is computer distorted to their eyes, but whom we see is Misty Knight.
Chapter 3 - Bushmaster is working for Team Purple and battling Stilt Man from Team Misty. In another battlefront Team Purple sends Death Stalker and Monster after Crossfire and Bombshell. Bombshell gets whatever MacGuffin they are fighting over this time to Speed Demon, who of course whisks it away at super speed. Following their second loss, Headhunter posits Misty Knight is running the rival crew, but Purple Man refuses to believe it because of the tactics the villains on her crew are using. At the Bar With No Name Headhunter and Shocker approach Tiger Shark and Bombshell. We get a brief fight until Headhunter offers the rival villains 50k to meet with Purple Man and he bribes them into switching sides. They reveal they don’t know who hired them but they do have an address. Team Purple dispatches Scourge to that address and he indeed finds Misty Knight. He attempts to sniper rifle her from across the rooftops but as he watches Paladin is confronting Misty about going too far and she responds by killing him.
Chapter 4 – Purple Man reconsiders killing her after last issue’s finale and instead sends all of Team Purple to her location. Misty meanwhile has added Man-Ape to her team (which is down to four after the defections). Her security cameras pick-up Team Purple so she calls in Team Misty while the building’s defenses keep Team Purple at bay. The two teams fight to a stalemate but when Tiger Shark reveals who is in Control for Team Misty everyone but Crossfire defects. Scourge then shoots Crossfire in the back. Shocker makes it inside to challenge Misty but apparently her bionic arm now has Stark-tech and she uses it to override Shocker’s costume. She fights her way through a few more villains but Tiger Shark proves too strong for her and rips her bionic arm off. They then bring her to Purple Man and he starts to gloat, only for Puppet Master to reveal himself as being aligned with Misty.
Chapter 5 – Puppet Master gives his reasons for hating Purple Man and then possesses every member of Team Purple except for Headhunter (apparently her power is being immune to mind-control). Misty Knight reattaches her arm as all hell breaks loose with the villains when Purple Man attempts counter-mind control. Eventually Bombshell blows the place up and most everyone scatters; although Scourge shoots a few people (non-fatally it turns out) and Death Stalker loses an arm courtesy of Head Hunter. Misty manages to win a rematch with Tiger Shark but gets captured by Head Hunter only for Scourge to unmask as Paladin and save the day. Misty finally defeats Purple Man. And then we get the big flashback scene typical of a heist movie that shows how Misty and Puppet Master hooked up months earlier and came up with a plan for Paladin to impersonate Scourge. Puppet Master goes state’s evidence to help ensure Team Purple’s conviction. We close with Misty and Paladin sharing a romantic moment.
Critical Thoughts: I enjoyed this. For one it has a lot more tension than typical super hero comic since really everyone but Shocker could realistically be killed off in this since most of these are lower tiers villains or enemies of heroes who haven’t a solo title in years. The narration does a good job of introducing the numerous players and what their powers are; while the action scenes themselves are for the most part fast-paced and fun.
I also liked the villains’ sensibilities and how they differ from heroes. When Purple Man asks Tiger Shark why he is willing to switch sides, his response is “Your money is money, right?” And in fact a good deal of these villains have shown in the past to be very profit-oriented; specifically Shocker and the former Serpent Society members stand out here.
The heist movie series of reveals is also well-executed at the end, which in a story like this it is key those scenes work. Having Paladin imitate Scourge is a fine stroke both for the deception and because it made absolutely no sense for true Scourge to be working with a group of villains.
My only criticism is I’m not sure I buy Misty as able to take these many villains at once in the finale even with the Stark Tech upgrade explanation, but from the few HforH trades I’ve picked up I’ve decided I really don’t care much for Misty anyway.
Grade B+. Overall I enjoyed this much more than the Heroes for Hire series it spun out of.