In my recent interview with Villains For Hire writers Dan Abnett & Andy Lanning, they revealed that this new series was originally just supposed to be a new story arc starting in what would have been Heroes For Hire #13, rather than an entirely new concept. It was only retitled to give it an extra bit of notoriety for a buzz bump. In Villains For Hire #0.1, that fact is patently obvious, as most of the issue is just another day in Misty Knight's Heroes For Hire operation. It's not until the last couple of pages where the new school notion is introduced and could make things interesting.
Or it could just be a redux of DC's old Oracle/Calculator enmity, as unseen personalities operating from isolated control rooms duel with their various selected agents to try and destroy each other. Either way, though, it should still be fun, as this title is a fantastic way to utilize all of those D-list Marvel characters that never get enough face time.
Not that DnA's book has ever been entirely D-list. Even though Misty Knight and Paladin are the two main characters, they did have a pretty fun couple of issues featuring Spider-Man. In Villains For Hire #0.1, Black Panther fills that role of big-name hero, working alongside Silver Sable and Daimon Hellstrom, of all people, to safeguard some Asgardian antiquities from a robbery. You'd think, after the mess of Fear Itself, that everyone would want to stay away from Asgardian artifacts as any kind of story element, but thankfully, they're simply a prop for the good guys and bad guys to fight over here.
As usual, the story is breezy and fun, with heroes kicking tuchus in action while engaging in banter with the competent and sassy Knight, fighting monsters, Stilt-Woman (who is apparently too dumb to come up with that name herself, as she complains about the mockery she got by calling herself Lady Stilt-Man) and Sidewinder of the Serpent Society (although why he has a Crossbones logo on his forehead is a mystery I'm not sure will be answered anytime soon, given how Brock Rumlow's pretty well monopolized by Fear Itself: The Fearless). Also as usual, DnA make some dialog choices that may be just a touch off-character for the sake of preserving that sense of swiftly-moving entertainment. It's rare enough that it can be shrugged off, but it's noticeable enough to force that shrug.
The twist is that the Purple Man - the guy who initially masterminded the creation of this particular iteration of Heroes For Hire as a way to clandestinely eliminate criminal competitors before Knight and Paladin figured it out and broke free - has decided to forge another version, this time a bit more directly involved as Knight's opposite number in a Villains For Hire organization. The kicker being that he seems to be quite able to monitor everything on Knight's own network systems. That'll be troublesome.
For all the crap I've given to Brian Michael Bendis, to this day, it is still hard to even think about the Purple Man without thinking of how ugly, twisted and bone-deep creepy he was made in Alias, and what he did to Jessica Jones and everyone else he comes in contact with thanks to his 'you get near me, I control your mind automatically' power. His presence in a generally light and upbeat series like this might seem incongruous, but it's not likely that DnA plan to get too rapey with him, which is a good thing. Intense skeeve like that doesn't belong in this book.
The art from Renato Arlem is pretty good, if a tad inconsistent. It has a very clean and polished look, but there's some proportion issues cropping up here and there. This book is designed to be action-oriented, as all exposition and dialog tends to race right alongside that action, as opposed to bringing the story to a halt to deliver it, and Arlem does keep that kinetic pace going pretty well. It's very shiny. There is the question of why Knight is dressed in spandex and boob-window halter tops when she's just sitting in a room watching monitors, but hey, it's comics. There will apparently always be boob windows.
Overall, it's still the same fun the series has been so far, and it remains to be seen whether or not this will be a segue into making the Villains For Hire operation the actual focus of the series, or if it will split time with Heroes For HIre, or if it'll just be a stunt re-titling for an arc or three. There's a lot of fun potential with both concepts, and the list of D-listers DnA have mentioned as appearing in upcoming issues sounds like it should be some solid entertainment. Perhaps not the 'deep fried butter on a stick' of Dan Slott's description of Spider Island, but certainly some fried Twinkie action, at the very least.
CRAVE ONLINE RATING: 8/10