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August 20, 2010

Retro-Read #20 Hitman

Filed under: Retro-Read — Doorman @ 7:52 am

With years spent reading single issues here and there, juggling storylines of dozens of titles, I decided it was time to find a better way to read comics. So, it was off to the back issue bins armed with the longest want list you’ve ever seen! Putting together series after series and reading them in their complete goodness, I was reborn as the Retro-Reader!

Hitman #1Publisher: DC Comics
Number of Issues: 60
First Issue: April 1996 ($2.25)
Last Issue: April 2001 ($3.95)
Writer: Garth Ennis
Artist: John McCrea

*Warning! Plot Spoilers Below*

Tommy Monaghan is a hitman based out of Gotham City. But, he’s not just any hitman … he’s the only guy in the business of killing superpowered targets. And, armed with x-ray vision and telepathy (which he got during DC Comics’ Bloodlines crossover) he’s the right guy for the job. Even though he’s a killer, he’s still got some morals instilled from his Catholic upbringing … y’see, he only kills people he thinks are “bad”. But, the Arkannone want that changed for their own evil purposes, so they’ve sent the Mawzir to Earth to corrupt our hero, Tommy.

The book kicks off with Tommy being offered $1,000,000 to kill the Joker. He figures it would be easy enough to break into the Joker’s cell in Arkham … after all, the prisoners are always breaking out of there. But, he didn’t figure on the villain having his very own protector … Batman! Naturally, Batman’s isn’t going to let Tommy cash in on this job but there are plenty of others that the Hitman can do. And, each job brings him closer to his dream of retiring in New York City.

Hitman #43Following an aquatic zombie invasion, the Mawzir overthrows his Arkannone masters and rallies some forces to destroy the Hitman. Luckily for our boy, Tommy, he’s got plenty of friends of his own willing to lend a hand. Natt the Hat, Catwoman, Etrigan the Demon, Section Eight and a few others join in to fight against the Mawzir in the six part storyline, Ace of Killers, which seems to close out the first “act” of this series.

One might hope for some R&R with the threat of the Mawzir eliminated but, no such luck for our hero, Tommy. He quickly gets caught up in an old vendetta against a squad of S.A.S. forces as well as Men’s Room Louie and his goons. After pitting both sides against each other, Tommy makes an unscheduled detour to Ireland to discover some startling revelations about the family he never knew he had. Now that he’s discovered the horrible truths about his father, Tommy decides to do something good with his life. So, he and his pals go the African Republic of Tynanda to unseat an unjust dictator and, by the time they get back from their mission, they discover that their home city of Gotham has undergone quite a few changes due to the events from Batman’s No Man’s Land storyline. And, while Batman’s out picking up the pieces of Gotham, Tommy and his pals are left to stave off a vampire invasion of the city.

The home stretch of the series begins with a death of a major supporting character and then takes a U-turn into a battle against a pack of time-travelling dinosaurs. Then, it’s back to some more deaths of important characters before the final storyline of the series, Closing Time. In this eight part tale, Tommy has to stop a group of rogue scientists who are attempting to utilize the alien DNA from the Bloodlines crossover (wherein Tommy developed his super-powers) to create their own team of loyal super-beings. This operation goes all the way to the top and involves some important federal agencies. Agencies that can make or break you. Will Tommy be able to stop these terrible experiments and escape to freedom?

Hitman #49The Bad: Even after sixty issues, I still feel like there was a lot more story to be explored … and I would have liked a happy ending! My other minor beef is that Ennis quickly strayed from the “super-powered hitman” idea. Sure he went after the Joker initially … but, there were very few super-powered hits after that. Now, I do see the problem here. Sending Tommy out after well-known villains and not being able to have them killed in continuity would make Tommy look pretty inept. However, I’d still have liked to see him go up against some DC heavy-hitters.

The Good: At one point, Hacken gets his hand bit by a zombie penguin. For fear of the infection spreading to his brain, he begs Tommy to cut his hand off. Moments after doing so, the evil scientist who created this zombie infection informs them that you can’t catch it from a zombie bite. Scenes like this are what Garth Ennis is known for … and there’s plenty of this black humor to be had here! Despite the time-traveling dinos and zombie penguins, most of the series isn’t so over the top that it takes you out of the ground-level action and character moments. The series plays up a lot of dark humor but it’s also a real genuine book. There are a lot of down-to-earth stories here that allow you to delve into who these characters really are. And, despite being a hitman, Tommy’s really a good guy, deep down. This is at the root of what makes it possible for us, the readers, to root for a murderer and still feel OK about it. To top it off, the creative team of Ennis & McCrea stayed on the book the entire time, giving it a great feeling of consistency.

The Verdict: Garth Ennis and John McCrea have put together a great, fun read about a charming hitman. It’s weird to be rooting for a murderer but, Tommy’s really such a good guy beneath that cold, hard exterior that you can’t help but want things to work out for him. And, what’s a book without a strong support cast? This one’s got quite a few that all stand out as unique, believable and genuine characters. Ennis writes their conversations and great witty banter in a way that allows us to get a good handle on how close these guys really are. I would have liked a happy ending but, the door’s still slightly open enough for some more adventures. And, I’ve a feeling that there are more out there!

On Ebay: Hitman | Garth Ennis | John McCrea

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