A line I'm sure I've used previously. But that's just it, Marvel can't stop extending the brand, most recently with Avengers AI and now, this. Our story begins with Thanos' lackeys, Proxima Midnight and Ebony Maw - feel free to take a titter break - sent to Earth to devastate New York. It's part of the Infinity event, but as it took me three attempts to get through the first issue of that series, I've no idea what his big plan is.
All we need to know so far as this issue is concerned is that the Avengers are in space reacting to the latest cosmic crisis, leaving the Big Apple at the mercy of some rather devastating worms. Happily, not all heroes are away - Luke Cage has started a new team of Heroes for Hire, and they're ready to defend their territory.
At the beginning of the issue, the new HFH consists of Cage, Vic the teenage Power Man and Ava, the latest version of the White Tiger, proudly described as 'Avengers Academy graduates'. Early on, White Tiger quits, uncomfortable with the concept of taking money for doing good deeds; she firms up the decision she'd almost made after Dr Octopus, the Superior Spider-Man, gatecrashes their gig, protecting Horizon Labs from the corny but dangerous Parnival the Plunderer. By issue's end, Luke, Vic and Ock are facing the alien killers, joined by Monica Rambeau, previously Captain Marvel, Photon, Pulsar, but as of now, Spectrum. She's accompanied by 'the Splendiferous Spider Hero (no hyphen)', apparently a well-known hero who want to keep his identity secret.
I'm calling it now - he's Eros, aka Starfox, Monica's former Avengers colleague and brother of Thanos.
Invited to write a team sparked by the Infinity event, Al Ewing grabs the bull by the horns and swings. Thanos may be a cosmic god, but he's thrown into the shadows by the character work of the soon-to-be Mighty Avengers. Luke Cage, the best Marvel character to come out of the Seventies - sorry Wolverine - is the mature hero, angry young man turned family man. Victor, borrowing Luke's old Power Man name and chains motif, and Iron Fist's, er, fist, is the angry young man who needs to find his own voice. And Ava, aware of her heroic lineage, but too idealistic to accept that being paid for doing good doesn't preclude pro bono heroism.
isn't actually a great designer). I just hope this series lasts long enough to allow a version of Monica to stick for awhile.
As for Doc Ock, I don't expect the super-arrogant Spider-Man to be around for long, but he's a lot of fun. I still don't get why someone like Luke, who's known the real Spidey for years, doesn't immediately click that this isn't the real deal ... is Ock sending out incredulity-blocking waves or something?
I cannot wait to see what Ewing does with Eros, his odd morality and sex-power is bound to add spice to the mix. Plus, the addition of him and Monica means the book won't be restricted to street-level threats.
Ewing captures the classic Thanos, but his grandiloquent speech is thrown into relief by the super-cheesy lines of Parnival (Ka-Zar's brother, don'tcha know). Parnival's the type of low-level threat you'd expect Heroes for Hire to take on, but he's a decent-enough reason for the trio to be in action. And he's far more fun than Thanos' lieutenants - Proxima Midnight with her spiky stick and Kirby crown, and Ebony Maw, apparently a Glorious Godfrey knock-off. We see the latter giving Dr Strange a speech about love which is well-written, but seems out of place in this comic, unless Strange is joining up.
The pencils are by Greg Land, popular with many Marvel readers, and so popular with Marvel higher-ups, but vilified by many comic reviewers for overuse of inappropriate photo reference. I like much of his work here - the backgrounds, some of the faces - but eventually got terribly distracted trying to work out who the main model for his Luke Cage is. I almost settled on Shemar Moore but I'm not quite convinced that's it.
I dislike his version of Monica Rambeau. Here are images of Monica down the years ....
Overall, a good first issue - I'm incredibly uninterested in the Infinity business, but the character work grabbed me. The art has a few problems, but it's big and splashy and far better than in some other books (the aforementioned Avengers AI, for one). I'm really looking forward to seeing where Ewing takes this series.