Tommy Monaghan killed people for money and he was very good at it. Then, in the summer of 1993, in the middle of an attempted hit, everything changed – his victim was attacked by a parasitic alien vampire named Glonth.
Not satisfied with just one morsel, Glonth attacked Tommy. But, surprise, surprise, Tommy survived.
He didn’t escape the encounter completely unscathed as the vampire’s attack awakened his previously dormant metahuman genes, which gave him telepathy, x-ray vision, and turned his eyes completely, and disconcertingly, black.
His newfound powers allowed him to take on contracts other hitmen wouldn’t touch: metahumans. But, there was a catch. Tommy stood by his own code: he’d only hunt down people whom he considered bad. Good people? Exempt.
Hitman was written by Preacher scribe Garth Ennis at the height of his prowess, coinciding with that aforementioned 66 issue masterpiece, Preacher and illustrated by his The Demon partner John McCrea.
The pair managed to intertwine the affairs of Tommy Monaghan with Batman, Green Lantern, Superman, and Catwoman in a way that made complete and total sense. Amazing, when you consider that Hitman was just a street-level rogue from the really bad part of Gotham.
“It’s way too easy to get superpowers these days…”
Hitman was an effective combination of action, humour, and interesting and unexpected stories.
For example: Hitman decimates a gang, killing a mob boss. The twist? That mob boss was one-half of a conjoined twin pairing, and the other brother survived. So the living brother makes it his mission to get revenge on his Monaghan for the death of his brother and father, offering a massive bounty for the making of Hitman’s corpse.
Over the course of a few issues the attempts on Monaghan’s life coincide with the gradual decomposition of the deceased brother; in fact one of the bosses’ underlings has the audacity to question the smell in a meeting and gets a bullet between the eyes for his trouble.
The entire duration of the run was punctuated by clever, winding storylines, and a strong, diverse, well fleshed out supporting cast that made the world of Tommy Monaghan seem like a living, breathing place that grew and changed, which for all the praise the book has received over time, may just be its most important feature.
“OH NO! I TURNED MY ASS INTO A HAND GRENADE!!!!”
Ennis and McCrea had the uncanny ability to make even the preposterous seem plausible.
The cover of Hitman #5 “Enter: Nightfist! He will hit you with his fist” made me laugh more than I feel comfortable describing when it was first published. It was so obvious a tagline that it was ridiculous; but of course its ridiculousness is what made it perfect.
Much ink has been spilled over the talents of Garth Ennis and there’s no need to belabour the point. He is a fantastic writer and has a knack for finding clever ways to poke fun at the superhero genre.
When Tommy and Green Lantern are sitting at the bar and Tommy says that since he bought the first round, the second round is on him and Green Lantern responds by saying he doesn’t have any cash in his tights, it’s flawless.
McCrea delivers the scene with his unique style, able to show Green Lantern as simultaneously shocked and cowed all at once.
Ennis may have had a higher profile during their tenure, but McCrea was no less of a driving force to what is (and if it isn’t, it should be) a cult classic series from the 90’s.
“Uhhh, any superheroes around? Guy hanging off a building here, could use a rescue!”
Hitman was not a superhero comic, though superheroes made frequent appearances.
At best, Tommy Monaghan was an anti-hero; he had his own code; believed in friends, family, and watching your buddy’s back. He felt people who never bothered anyone should just be left alone.
It was clear that Tommy would never been one of the “good guys.” He’d never wear a cape or fit in well on the moon with the Justice League. But he was a good guy; and that was enough.
During the glut of 90’s superheroes, Hitman was a revelation.
Even if you can’t find it in the dollar bin, Hitman is worth collecting in any available format.
You won’t regret it.
Ennis and McCrea revived side characters from their run on Hitman in 2015 with All Star Section 8. Learn more here
“I AM BAYTOR.” (You’ll have to read it, to get it.)
[Cover image via www.comicvine.com]