Monday, June 30, 2014

Looking back at "Hitman" by Garth Ennis & John McCrea

For hardcore comic book fans, once in a while a title comes along that maybe doesn’t find the mainstream success of a franchise like X-Men or Batman but yet it finds a home near the top of your personal reading list due to it’s fantastic writing or likable characters. Today I’m going to write about a series that has done just that for me (and many others), today I am going to write an article about a comic book called “Hitman” by the sick and twisted Garth Ennis, and a uniqe artist named John McCrea.
     “Hitman” told the story of a loaded gun for hire named Tommy Monaghan who had meta-human superpowers and lived in Gotham City alongside some of the best known heroes and worst feared villains in DC Comics history. It was in that very city people would go to Tommy and hire him to kill a wide array of individuals (both super powered and not) and if the price was right he would gladly oblige. Doing hits on people was his job but Tommy was most certainly not a one dimensional character who spent his entire 60 issue series knocking off scum to get rich, Monaghan was a true to life average guy who had a girlfriend, close friends, and people who cared deeply about him. Most of which all hung out in a downtown dive-bar called Noonan’s. Throughout the series Tommy found himself coming face to face with multiple iconic DC characters, some of the interactions between them was actually quite hilarious, other dealings were downright serious, but it was nice to see a character like Tommy's become accepted into the DC universe at a time when superheroes were the extreme focus of DC, not an average looking guy in a jacket holding a gun. Some of the funniest moments within this book were the ones that took place between the characters that hung around Noonan’s Bar, one scene that comes to mind had Kyle Raynor (Green Lantern) being told by an intoxicated local bar-fly that he wouldn’t amount to much as a superhero because the JLA only accepted original members, and don’t get me started on a wannabe hero that went by the name of “Dog Welder” who was absolutely knee slapping in his pathetic attempt at an outfit.
     Garth Ennis' hilarious shots at superheroes made for some fantastic comedy in Hitman and his treatment of the characters in this series as it pertains to their relationships with each other was handled perfectly. Especially early on in the story when we were treated to some of with most breathtaking scenes of friends departed I've ever had the pleasure of reading. One thing I do have to say is that some of the best characters in this series were without a doubt the supporting cast with my absolute favorite being a guy named Pat, a childhood friend of Tommy’s in which he had plans to move out of Gotham with once he had saved up enough cash. Pat was unfortunately tortured and left in a pool of his own blood in his own bathtub by one of Monaghan’s rivals and when Tommy discovered his best friend clinging on to dear life he found that he had no choice but to put Pat out of his misery by putting a bullet into his head himself. It was tragic and remains one of the most powerful scenes I’ve ever read in comic books to this day.

     It's been a long time but I remember the first time I purchased an issue of Hitman. It happened to be issue #3 and it was on the new arrivals shelf at my local comic shop, I can't explain why but something about it tickled my fancy and there was a light whisper in my ear that told me I should buy it. I just had the feeling as if I should really see what this title was all about so I picked it up and thumbed through it and thought it looked cool so I added it to my overgrowing stack of books. After the decision was made, I looked around for the first 2 issues of the series but couldn‘t find them anywhere so I focused on finding the rest of my weekly purchases and moved along. I don’t know why but for some reason this particular visit to the comic book shop sticks out alongside other important comic book visits I’ve made throughout my lifetime, I probably remember it so well because I didn’t think much was going to come out of Hitman but yet I gave it a shot and I also made a couple other important pick up’s that day as well, including a 6 card set of metallic Star Wars trading cards that came in a tin holder. Anyhow, when I got home to organize my new purchases I made sure to read Hitman in my first sitting and instantly I began to fall in love with Tommy, Natt, Pat, Tiegel, Noonan and the rest of the cast. Their characters were just written so well and I was instantly hooked thanks to the fun storytelling of Garth and the simple but fantastic art by John McCrea. As a whole, McCrea's art was nothing to write home about by any means, it was simple and didn't really offer much in the way of detail or flashy Image like quality of it's time but it fit the Hitman book perfectly and I couldn't imagine anyone else but him illustrating the series. I felt so strong about this back in the day that whenever a guest artist filled in for McCrea it threw everything about the book off and just didn't feel right, I still cringe at the thought.
     Ever since I picked up that 3rd issue I made sure to pick up Hitman each and every month afterwards for as long as I could, sadly though, I stopped buying the book somewhere in the 40's of it’s 60 issue run due to me losing interest in the story and other comics that were being published at the time were too much of a necessity to continue along with Hitman. Since those day's I’ve made sure to go back and hunt down every issue that DC ever published of this series to ensure that I had the complete story, it's something I've always wanted to do and it's something I’m sure glad that I did. Hitman was too important to me to just let fade away into a sea of comic book obscurity and for the rest of my collecting days Hitman will continue to have a spot in this fan's collection, if you read comics than I suggest you do yourself a favor and follow suit.

©2014 Bill Mulligan

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