Saturday, October 20, 2007

JLA/HITMAN: On the Darkside #1-2

Back in the Other Life, I used to read dozens of comics each month. Heck, it wasn’t unusual to pick up a dozen titles any time I stopped off at the local shop each week. There were a lot of books I bought each month, some mini-series and lots of one-shots & specials. They would all be cataloged and then put in the order in which I planned to read them. I always tried to read the #1 issues as soon as I could, so I knew if I should continue to pick up that particular series. Some books ended up at the bottom of the stack and I might not get to them for a week or longer.

Then there were titles that I just had to read as soon as I had the chance. One of those was HITMAN by Garth Ennis and Joel McCrea. The hitman of the title was Tommy Monaghan, a paid assassin who only took jobs involving killing those he felt deserved to be killed. The idea of a hitman with a conscious is not original, but Ennis made the reader care about Tommy and the gang down at Noonan’s Bar. During an alien invasion in a series called BLOODLINES, if someone survived the attack of the aliens there was a slight chance that that person might develop a super-power. Tommy was one of those survivors.

Recovering from the attack Tommy discovers that he has the powers of telepathy and x-ray vision. Although both are limited to a degree, you can see how such gifts might be helpful to somebody in his line of work. Only a few people knew about his abilities, since you didn’t really want folks you might have to encounter on a job to know these sorts of things.

For sixty issues and some specials, Tommy, Sean, Natt “The Hat”, and other associates kept to the dark, streets of Gotham trying to stay one step ahead of the cops, a certain Dark Knight and others who didn’t especially care for what they were up to. In one particular issue, Tommy meets a contemplative SUPERMAN and says something to him that the Man of Steel takes to heart. This two-issue mini-series springs from that meeting to an extent and Tommy finds himself taken by BATMAN to the old JLA citadel on the Moon.

It seems that new and more deadly versions of the Bloodline aliens have taken over the astronauts of a NASA mission and members of the JLA need to deal with them. Hoping to learn something about the alien DNA from one of the few survivors of the first encounter, BATMAN brings Tommy up for some tests. The members of the JLA working on the problem are BATMAN, SUPERMAN, WONDER WOMAN, FLASH (Wally West, at that point) and the then current GREEN LANTERN (Kyle “Crab-face Guy” Rayner). Ennis wonderfully captures the personalities of the various members, actually making Kyle likable if a bit befuddled by the presence of the Big Three. Superman especially comes off wonderfully and his interaction with Tommy is delightful for all the right reasons. I’m not going to give anything away, except that this is a flashback, which ends with a very nice moment with Superman back on the Moon.

I would love to have Tommy Monaghan back and the return of the multiverse to the DCU just might make that happen. Ennis and McCrea do a great job letting some of the old gang make cameos for those of us who remember them. I have always liked McCrea's art and he captures easily the major characters making everyone instantly recognizable. You have to love his faces, especially on Tommy, Batman & Superman, letting us see what the character is thinking even without Ennis adding dialogue to a panel.

Thanks to Garth and Joel for making this fanboy very happy!

(By the way, you can learn about Tommy and Co. by clicking on the headline above.)
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