4 out of 5
Garth settles into a rhythm, and a good time was had by all.
The first few Hitman arcs wavered to establish the general tone of the book – separate from Demon, separate from Bloodlines – and then to find the right emotional / intellectual depth, not mixing the ingredients very well for the preceding 10,000.
But having (for now) traded out whiny pal Sean for a buddy Tommy can wheel and deal next to – Natt the Hat – and swapping an empty shell tagalong girlfriend for the tough-as-nails suspended cop Tiegel, Ennis seems primed to move forward into more confidently Hitman territory: taking the piss out of heroes like Green Lantern. This is what was attempted with Batman but it’s much sharper and willfully silly here, with Tommy in full control and smirking at Kyle Rayner’s bombastic blabber in the same exact fashion you imagine Ennis would. Things threaten to topple into the same off-the-cuff ridiculousness that marred Hitman’s premiere in the Demon annual in the following two zombie animal issues, Night at the Aquarium, but Garth successfully hangs his jokes on his characters – Hacken chainsawing through a wall and Tommy realizing that a club is the best way to handle zombie seals are priceless moments – instead of just coasting by on McCrea’s slapdash pencils of crazy ideas, thereby helping to cement Garth’s forte with establishing memorable people in his books.
Speaking of McCrea, while his crowded panels (or perhaps a loose script from Ennis) cause some odd lettering arrangements – people speaking out of turn – McCrea’s art similarly finds a balance between rubbery and grounded, especially shining in the insanity of the zombie issues.
The first Hitman annual, also included in this trade, starts stretching the satire shtick a bit, with Garth rewriting Man With No Name for the zillionth time (with zero pretense, as he has Tommy and Natt debate the various merits of the Dollars trilogy early on), but the Carlos Ezquerra / Steve Pugh art keeps it looking fresh, and Garth has some smart-ass twists later on.
To be clear, the book is still dumb, but it finds a special rhythm as the sniggering student in the corner of the DC class, turning in a collection of entertaining – and rereadable – issues. (Also: Six-Pack!)