When I introduced book one I noted that the reissuing of the first half of the Hitman series along with new editions collecting the rest had lead to a somewhat lop-sided distribution of stories in the trades. The first four collect the first twenty-two issues, the final three trades cram in the other thirty-eight plus bonuses. To avoid splitting all three of those trades into two reviews, for books five and six I will highlight the most important arc's and one-shots in detail and briefly summarise the rest. Volume seven will be split into two parts because it's all important though. Anyway one thing I learned about Garth Ennis during my reading of his series The Boys is that he loves to take jokes and throwaway comments made in early issues and spin them into something very serious in a later one. The standout arc in this volume sees an event in Natt and Tommy's military past told to us in issue #8 (The Final Night crossover one) come back to haunt them with terrible consequences. This volume also includes the award winning one-shot where Tommy and Superman have a heartfelt talk about what it means to be an American superhero, showing Ennis is not totally opposed to the superhero concept. There is also an arc where Tommy gets involved in a civil war in Africa as a mercenary, two issues where he meets a couple of long-lost family members and one where he takes part in the DC One Million crossover event. Also, the more eagle-eyed among you might spot the art is slightly different now, that's because Garry Leach has come aboard inking John McCrea's pencils, giving it a slightly softer edge but losing none of the impact. Let's begin.
|It's about to kick off..|
|Eddie, Page, Whitey and Plug. Four badass dudes.|
Natt: "Forget any dirt bag you ever messed wit' and any badass you was ever scared of. Forget Delta Force an' the Navy Seals and the John Wayne-assed Green Berets, an' the godamn ninja assassins, an' Sergeant Rock an' Bruce Lee an' the motherlovin' Terminator: Those dudes are SAS... They gonna kill us Tommy."
|No kill like overkill.|
Natt: "I gotta say, I dunno what we gonna do now man. They got us good you know? We screwed."
Tommy: "Yeah. Unless we do something really crazy."
So Tommy and Natt attack Louie's hideout and Tommy phones Louie telling him they'll be hitting all his operations tonight. Back with the SAS, they have Sean tied up, and Eddie is uncomfortable with this, especially when he finds a photo on Sean that shows he used to be in the army. He says about Natt and Tommy:
Eddie: "They're a couple of tits yeah, but at the end of the day they were soldiers an' they made a mistake, an' that old bloke in there, the one we're using against them, he's a soldier too, an' it's making me friggin' sick."
He says it's a stupid job and not what he joined the regiment for. Back with Natt and Tommy, their plan is to hit enough places to get the mafia to follow them to where the SAS are and get Sean out in the confusion when the two sides clash. This plan actually works, and Natt and Tommy slip inside the building, but are surprised by Whitey. He punches Natt and he and Tommy wrestle with a gun which goes off and the richochet kills Whitey. Tommy and Natt slip away, and when the rest of the SAS find Whitey's body their commander, Page grimly says it's time to "go ballistic".
|Gun wrestling, the sport of MEN.|
The Page puts Whitey's body in the boot of a car with a grenade to dispose of it. Eddie gives Sean food, then he and Plug reminisce over a time during Desert Storm when they were surprised by an Iraqi soldier, but he was out of ammo when he attacked and instead of killing him, they befriended him and let him go back to his side. Eddie says this vendetta has to stop, Plug says that now Whitey has been killed, if Page told them to burn the whole city to the ground he would. They go back to their contact and demand plenty of explosive ordinance and a list of Louie's operations. Page thinks the mafia killed Whitey and he's going after them now much to Eddie's disbelief. Eddie then lets Sean go, saying he shouldn't have to suffer this anymore.
|Eddie does the decent thing.|
Page: "No matter how long ago or how far away, your actions had consequences. Your failure to do your duty set into motion that you could not imagine."
Before he can fire, Eddie rises up behind him and breaks his neck. He refuses Tommy's thanks and offer of help, spitting that they are "stupid yank bastards". Then he drags Page's body into a fire with him and they both burn up in front of a shocked Natt and Tommy. The end.
|Yes, yes they are.|
Natt: "You ain't been doing much either huh?"
Tommy: "Zip. It's kinda hard to get up the enthusiasm when someone's just wiped the floor with you an' thrown you back like you weren't even worth botherin' with in the first place."
Natt says there shouldn't be any shame in getting beaten by the SAS. Tommy says that you think that your the main event, the big story. Then you meet someone who's really serious and you realise you just a chapter in their story. You realise just how small you are.
|Self pity time|
An "Irish" band start up playing, much to Tommy's distress. Natt grins that he shouldn't deny his heritage, but Tommy says he was found in a bag on the steps of an orphanage with the name "Tommy Monaghan" written on the bag. He doesn't know if he really is Irish and if he was he wouldn't be into all this "fake shamrock" crap.
Later they leave the bar and someone tries to pull a hit on them. Tommy lets him go but Natt blows his head off. They argue and Natt tells Tommy he's a hitman, and showing mercy isn't going to change anything. Tommy says he's worried that their tangle with the SAS opened a door to hell and that they are on the road to destruction or something. Natt bids him goodnight and Tommy beds down on the floor of Noonan's and the nightmare begins again.
TOMMY'S HEROES - Just a quick summary of this one as it's not particularly funny or insightful into the characters. Looking to get away from the Men's Room Louie heat, Tommy and Natt (along with Ringo and Hacken) take a job offer in Africa. They are to train an army filled with forcibly enlisted unskilled men to fight the rebels, who are selling heroin to fund their insurgency. Tommy befriends a British Airborne soldier named Bob Mitchell who was friends with Eddie Baker (from "Who Dares Wins"). They soon realize that President Kijaro and his super-human bodyguards, Scarlett Rose and the Skull, are evil. They meet the rebels, and Tommy is convinced to help install their leader, Christian Ributu, in Kijaro's place as long as he stops dealing heroin. Ributu is warned not to be like the other rulers, or Tommy will return.
|This wasn't a bad arc, but it repeated a lot of the same themes of miltary loyalty and duty that "Who Dares Win" did.|
Superman: "It was so plain what he was thinking in that instant. When we met each others eyes. I'll take it to my grave. 'You're Superman. And you're not going to save me'. And then God decided our time was up."
Superman was in Gotham to talk to Batman about it, who wasn't much help at soothing Superman's troubled soul. Tommy says he can't save everyone. Superman says he is more worried about what he's come to represent.
Tommy say's he shouldn't beat himself up over an ideal he knows is garbage, that he can't possibly live up to.
Tommy: "Jeez. You're everything that's great about this country an' you don't even know it."
Now I have seen criticisms of Tommy's idea of joining the American melting pot. That it lauds the concept of being absorbed into a white Christian monoculture. But this is an opinion coming from Tommy a somewhat lapsed Catholic, to Superman, raised a God fearing middle American farmboy. And the writer is Garth Ennis, who is NOT an Irish writer, but a Northern Irish writer (part of the United Kingdom not Ireland), a place with hundreds of years of religious strife as part of his history. And I believe Ennis has made his home in New York now too and if The Boys and Hitman are taken together he has a real affinity for the ideals that America traditionally represents.
Anyway, Tommy's pep talk works and Superman thanks him and bids him farewell, though not before signing Tommy's magazine for him. Then he flies off and Tommy does what he was up on the roof to do in the first place and that's carry out a hit. But Superman didn't need to know that did he...?
TO HELL WITH THE FUTURE - This story was part of the DC One Million crossover event. It's set in the 853rd Century, when DC comics would reach number #1,000,000. A group of nerds bring Tommy forwards in time. He's gained a rather unlikely reputation as a super-hero based on twisted versions of events in his life. The nerds want to tap his Iconic Energy so they can all become superheroes. Tommy says he's no icon, his real story won't be remembered and what lies in the future for him is two shots to the head and being dumped in a ditch. The nerds send him back home to his own time and try again with another "hero" this time it's Etrigan. This goes poorly for them, the end.
|Hitman's reputation is somewhat mangled in the far future.|
On the aeroplane Frances tells him their mother was the town prostitute. Men would use her for sex, then call her scum in the streets. As a way of getting revenge on them she would name her kids after their fathers, with them having Billy, Johnny and Philomena as siblings as well. One day a man called Tom Dawson, a local property tycoon came to Katie, but warned her not to pull the same stunt with him. She stops the story for now and the action jumps forwards to her and Tommy at a burned out cottage, Katie's home. She has also provided Tommy with a gun. Two mysterious figures observe them and say it's time to call "the Big Man".
|A lonely abode even when Katie was alive|
|Tommy's father. The evil dick.|
|Couldn't have happened to a more deserving guy.|
Concepta: "And..God shall.. God shall wipe away all the tears from their eyes. And their shall be no more death. Neither sorrow, nor crying. Neither shall there be anymore pain. For the former things have passed away."
And dammit, if that doesn't choke me up every damn time I read that story, it's so beautiful and sad. The young Concepta and Sean hold each other and so ends the book on an incredibly powerful but bleak note.