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Mild Mannered Reviews - JLA Comics

JLA/Hitman #1

JLA/Hitman #1

Scheduled to arrive in stores: September 19, 2007

Cover date: November 2007

Writter: Garth Ennis
Penciller: John McCrea
Inker: John McCrea

"On the Darkside - Part One"

Michael Bailey Reviewed by: Michael Bailey

Click to enlarge

After two years of trying writer Peter Kirby finally manages to snag Clark Kent for an interview. The encounter nearly ends before it begins when Peter mentions Superman's name, which would have gone against the agreement Kirby and Kent had reached for the meeting to take place. As Clark prepares to leave Kirby asks what the name Tommy Monaghan meant to him. The name stops Kent cold and he sits back down. Peter reveals that he isn't working for anyone but at one point he was doing research for a book about Gotham City crime figures for a now defunct publisher. Thinking that he needed to take a fresh angle on a tired story Peter went off the beaten track and wound up at a bar called Noonan's. While there he noticed an autographed picture of Superman and being somewhat familiar with the signature he knew that it was either a really good fake or the real thing. Asking around Kirby found out that Tommy Monaghan walked into the bar one night and said he had just met Superman on a rooftop. Kirby asks Clark point blank how Tommy ended up with Superman's autograph.

Clark reveals that Superman indeed gave Tommy the autograph. The two had met by chance after a rescue Superman was involved in went bad. Monaghan gave Superman some perspective on the situation. Kirby asks if Clark knew who Tommy Monaghan was and after Clark tells Kirby that Tommy was a hitman he explains that he is trying to discover the connection between a murderous Gotham thug and the world's greatest hero. Clark asks Kirby if he told him a story that he could never use or even repeat to anyone would Peter give his word that he would never do either. Peter is confused but Clark explains that while Superman can't confess maybe he might need Clark to do it for him. Kirby turns off the tape recorder and Clark begins his story.

Years ago, Superman, Batman, Flash (Wally West), Green Lantern (Kyle Rayner) and Wonder Woman were on monitor duty. A manned NASA probe returning from the edge of the solar system reported some kind of reactor malfunction and wanted to set down near the Watchtower. When Green Lantern scans the ship Batman quickly tells him to get away from the craft as quickly as he can.

Meanwhile Tommy Monaghan sits outside of a room as four hitmen argue about who is better qualified to kill Monaghan. Tommy tosses a sack containing a bomb into the room and after calling the man who tipped him off about the hit he finishes the rest of the hitmen off.

Back on the Watchtower Batman briefs Kyle on the creatures from the Bloodlines incident, which involved deep space parasites who almost took the planet. An interesting side effect form the creatures' attacks was that two dozen victims developed metahuman abilities and while Superman believed that the fully grown versions of the creatures wouldn't fit inside the shuttle the computer found a genetic match from the scan Green Lantern had transmitted. Batman believes that they need at least one of the survivors to verify their theory and quickly decides on whom to contact.

Batman tracks down Monaghan and brings him to the Watchtower. Green Lantern and Monaghan reunite and catch up with each other, which confounds Batman who quickly informs Kyle of what Monaghan does for a living. Superman arrives and is also pleased to see Tommy until Batman gives him the information about the man's occupation. Later Flash takes a few samples they talk about Superman's reactions to the revelation of Tommy's "career". Batman arrives and Flash reveals that because Tommy is alive and all of the Bloodlines samples were taken from dead tissue they don't have a one hundred percent match. Also the basic structure of the readings taken from the ship indicates a stronger species. Elsewhere on the Watchtower Superman explains his encounter with Tommy to Wonder Woman. They debate what that conversation meant and Wonder Woman finally coming to the conclusion that they need to agree to disagree.

Later the NASA ship crashes on to the moon. Superman flies to see if there are any survivors, which irks Batman. The group suddenly discovers that their powers are either gone or they have forgotten how to use them. Tommy finally gets the group's attention and asks what they are going to do about Superman, who is probably also without his powers and still out in the ship.

4Story - 4: Full disclosure; I never read HITMAN.

Yeah, that probably makes me the worst possible person to review this book, but at the same time it could be argued that since I am coming into this blind I may have a better perspective. I don't know that I entirely agree with that. It seems if I am going to have a better insight into the story I should know about the characters involved. I mean I know the JLA. Not inside and out but I have a good grasp on the group, especially the era in which Garth Ennis is taking them from. Tommy Monaghan, though? He's kind of a blind spot. I didn't read the book when it came out. It just wasn't on the radar.

Despite this handicap I really enjoyed this introductory issue. Enough information was given about Tommy and his world that I was brought up to speed by the middle of the book. This is one of those moments where I regret not picking up the book as it came out and know that it will be nigh impossible to find them now. It seemed like a fun concept. I like the Garth Ennis I've read and he has a happy talent at dialogue and a remarkable facility of character. It's funny too. Dark humor to be sure, but I like me all kinds of humor, so it worked. By the end of this issue I was very taken with Tommy as a character and developed a certain fondness for him.

Ennis' Justice League was a mixed bag for me, though. I liked how he dealt with both Kyle and Superman. At no time was Superman treated as a big dumb goof, which is always my fear in stories like this when the writer has a reputation for dealing with more "harder edged" characters. Ennis has range though and makes the Man of Steel innocent but not naive. The introductory scene of Clark and Peter Kirby set the stage for this and I liked the fact that Superman's first question after finding out what Tommy does "for a living" was what he was doing on that roof. The Kyle Rayner here reminded me of the Kyle of the Grant Morrison JLA. A new kid that gets a lot of crud for being the new kid, but good at his job and eager.

I had issues with Wally's treatment of Kyle, but then again Wally spent a good deal of his early days being friends with Kyle giving the young Green Lantern a hard time. This always rubbed me the wrong way. Wally went through many of the same things with certain heroes when he became the Flash. Sure there were those that accepted him but if my memory isn't playing tricks on me there were a few stories were Wally went through what he then turned around and did to Kyle. It's a good way to bring conflict into the equation but I've hated it nevertheless. Batman was a bit extreme for my tastes, but I've seen worse. Wonder Woman was... well I don't really know how I feel about Wonder Woman in this issue. She seems true to herself and off at the same time. It's very strange.

The fact that the Bloodlines concept was brought back was a surprise. I would like to go on record as saying Bloodlines was probably the worst crossover that DC ever did, but somehow Ennis gives it legitimacy. I'm not saying that Bloodlines is now good, I'm just saying that Ennis made it seem like a useful plot point instead of being the terrible, no good, very bad idea.

All in all this was a satisfying read. Turns out not knowing all that much about Hitman wasn't such a handicap after all.

4Art - 4: John McCrea has a rough style. Kind of like Doug Mahnke but different. I enjoyed his work and thought that he did right by the Justice League. It definitely fit the tone of the writing, which is all I ever really want in comic book art.

Well, that and really cool splash pages, but synergy is important too...

Just kidding.

4Cover Art - 4: This was a nice cover. It fits the story well and Tommy looks really happy to be tied up by Wonder Woman. I can't think of anything to complain about here.

Mild Mannered Reviews


Note: Month dates are from the issue covers, not the actual date when the comic went on sale.

January 2007

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