2 out of 5
While it by no means gets the same namedrop frequency as Preacher, Ennis’ lengthy Hitman run is generally regarded as another minor classic in the creator’s career, from that weird era when these overseas guys could hijack a DC or Marvel run for years, brewing all sorts of weirdness and surprises.
But despite having an anarchic flare – thanks to spinning out of Ennis’ rapacious take on The Demon and sharing madcap artist John McCrea – as well as kill-em’-all tonal similarities with Garth’s eventual (also classic) run on The Punisher, I’ve always had a difficult time getting into Hitman because the first couple related issues and ongoing storyline – all collected here – read like sloppy rush jobs. They’re not very funny, not very interesting, and not very well-written. The fact that the character survived such bumbling origins is the surprising thing. McCrea’s art at least adds a breezy ridiculousness to the whole affair.
Part of the issue, undoubtedly, is that a pretty flimsy crossover series (Bloodlines, in which spine-sucking aliens gave random folks superpowers) is what provided the springboard for Hitman, and it sort of seems from Grant’s flippant writing in the annual in which the character appears that he wasn’t taking the business all that seriously. Tommy Monaghan, gun for hire, gets X-Ray vision and telepathy, calls himself Hitman, and teams up with Etrigan to blow up conjoined twins who are also gang heavies. That’s as silly as any other comic setup, but McCrea’s pencils are drunk, the colors are flat, and Garth steps through the origin clumsily, clearly uncaring about the fate of Glonth, the featured Bloodlines villain.
And there after, it’s a struggle to turn it into an ongoing, so Ennis gives Monaghan a Punisher-esque “only shoot bad guys” code and has him sent on a wild goose chase by a gun-worshipping villain called Arkannone. Like the annual, it all sounds fine and dumb, but it never picks up much steam, and hiccups through its easy-pickins superhero commentary, like Ennis doing a cliff-notes version of his acerbic self. McCrea’s art, colored by Carla Feeny, is much more solid and fun, though, with some killer layouts and cool Batman (yeah, he’s here) / Arkannone designs.
So likely not a book that would’ve made me pay attention to Ennis back in the day, but its casual violence and hectic writing style are definitely unique for a DC book of any era.