Friday, 21 November 2014

Hitman Book 6: For Tommorrow (Hitman #37-50)

"Life inna old dog yet" - Sean

There is a sense of impending doom in this penultimate collection.  In the previous book Tommy seemed to recognise this and yet still stubbornly refuses to change his ways and once again those close to him end up paying the price.  This volume contains four arcs, two of which - "For Tommorrow" and "The Old Dog" - see Tommy suffering yet more loss in his life and those are the two I shall cover in more depth.  It's also notable that this volume has events taking place during the idiotic Batman crossover event "No Mans Land" in which an earthquake hits Gotham City and the US government writes the city off, detonating the bridges leading into the place and leaving the citizens to fend for themselves.  There are no actual crossovers with any of the Bat-family books here, but as the comic is set in Gotham City they had to take it into account. Although they only pay lip service to it, it was a very silly idea for an event. Gotham City might be a dump, but cutting it off from the rest of America instead of sending aid seems a mad idea.  Ah well.

DEAD MAN'S LAND - This first two-parter introduces a character who'll go on to be very important in the series's final arc, a woman called Maggie Lorenzo.  The story begins with Natt visting Tommy, who's been holed up for three weeks wallowing in self pity after the events of "Katie" in the previous book. Tommy decides it's time to move on and comes down to Noonan's.  There he, Natt, Ringo and Hacken and have fun little chat about the regularity of yearly crossover events that take place in the DCU.  After a friendly target shooting game, Maggie comes to them and asks if they can help find her missing son Michael.
Meta amusment
Tommy and Natt find him but he's been bitten by a vampire and dies in front of them.  The vampire responsible comes out and trash talks them so Natt and Tommy blow all his limbs of and wait for sun up to fry him.  Then they are attacked by more vampires in a car, so run to a nearby church.  Unfortunately it's full of vampires who have overcome most of the traditional vampire weaknesses. The lead vampire (who apparently is from Ennis's run on Hellblazer) offer's Natt and Tommy a deal, to be their agents during daylight while they rule the Cauldron. Of course they stay no, and standing in a shaft of sunlight call Noonan's for backup.

They get through to Baytor who is now the bartender there and luckily he passes the message on.  Sean shows up with Ringo, Hacken, Sixpack and others and they blow the vampires away in a hail of bullets then bulldoze their bodies out into the sunlight to kill them for good.  The story ends with Tommy going to tell Maggie the bad news about her son.

FOR TOMMORROW - It begins with Ringo performing a hit on a seventeen year old boy.  Then we catch up with Tommy who is visiting Tiegel at the zoo she works at now.  She's working for free as the whole NO Mans Land thing had the zoo being told to kill all the animals for safety's sake, but she and the other keepers stayed on to take care of them. Tommy confesses that he "might be in love" with Tiegel and this pleases her and they make a date for later.
Out on the street Tommy bumps into Ringo and Wendy (the woman he dated in books one and two and who dumped him when she found out he was a hitman). Ringo finds Tommy at Noonan's later and says he couldn't deny being a hitman himself when Wendy asked how he knew Tommy and she has broken up with him.  He says he was seriously thinking of giving up being a hitman so it wouldn't come between them.  He's not happy with Tommy.

Tommy: "You know.. everyone in this whole freakin' town thinks you an' me're gonna get into it one day.  An' if we ever do I think it'll be a damn shame."

Ringo: "Perhaps. On the other hand I would not want you to die at the hands of an unworthy opponent".

At this Tommy storms out. Ringo goes to collect the money for the hit he performed at the start of the story and finds his contact has been dismembered. The culprit is an ugly, squat little fellow who introduces himself as "the Waterman".  He's been hired to seek revenge on behalf of the father of the boy he killed. There is a gun battle between Ringo and the Waterman's hired guns and Ringo manages to escape to Noonan's.

One of the series's nastiest villains.
  They have chat and Sean mentions that Tommy has been avoiding him due to his lying about Tommy's mother. Sean says he still has to look out for him, because of what Pat said about Tommy.

Sean: "An' he said 'I dunno Uncle Sean.  I just got the feelin' Tommy's gonna do somethin' special one day'".

And he and Ringo drink to that.  Back with Tommy and he's in bed with Tiegel, she asks him to tell her he loves her again and will he consider giving up being a hitman for her.  Tommy stammers that he'll think about it. Later Tommy bails on a pool game and in the car Natt asks him what's being going on between him and Ringo and Sean. Natt says getting into it over a girl with Ringo is stupid and he also needs to leave all the Ireland stuff behind him.  Tommy agrees and then gets out to go and visit Wendy.

He tries to convince her not to dump Ringo, but she is unimpressed by his character reference. Ringo arrives and seeing Tommy goes for his gun, and Tommy goes for his even while he is yelling at Ringo that they need to stop being stupid.  But before it can escalate, the Waterman's goons come crashing through Wendy's window and another gun battle ensues. Ringo tells Tommy to get a hysterical Wendy to safety and she and Tommy escape. 

Poor Wendy.
Tommy leaves her at Noonan's but before he goes back to help Ringo he apologises to Sean for being a jerk to him.  Back at Wendy's flat, the Waterman is standing in a pool of water.  Tommy steps in it and the Waterman uses his powers to electrify it and knocks Tommy out.  He wakes up after being dumped in a cell, to see a bruised and beaten Ringo sat there as well.

Ringo: "That's the problem with this hotel.  They'll let just anyone in."

The Waterman tells them he will torture them both to death, Ringo on camera for the benefit of Sir Richard who's son he killed.  And Tommy as a "private indulgence".  Then he cuts off one of Tommy's nipples. Back in their cell, Ringo says he heard about creatures like the Waterman in China.  Cold blooded vermin who lurk in the dark and prey on the unwary.  Tommy asks him if he really believes that, Ringo replies that China is a big country, in remote areas nuclear testing has left many mutated people.  He was one of the lucky ones. 
Even killers have a line they won't cross.
He grew up in terrible poverty and joined the army, where he was able to support his parents.  Six months after they came to join him in the city he was sent to Tiananmen Square as a tank gunner.  He refused to open fire and left his post saying "this is our day of shame". He was shot then imprisoned for two years in solitary confinement. Then his ex-commander Major Li brought him a photo of the heads of his parents.  Ringo then escaped, killed a coporal and hid a grenade under his body.  When Major Li turned the body over it activated the grenade and killed him.

Ringo and Tommy are taken away for more torture.  Ringo tries to bait Sir Richard into having him killed quickly but fails.  We next see them back in the cell, with Ringo minus an eye and a few ribs. Ringo says he's had access to the CIA's Bloodlines files and knows all about Tommy's capabilities.  Then he resumes his story.  He came to America by stowing away on a boat and surviving by eating rats.  His only relative there, an Uncle put him to work as an enforcer.  He killed his Uncle after he was tricked by him into killing an innocent man and went freelance as a hitman.
RIngo, fresh off the boat, starts his new career.
Ringo asks Tommy why he is a Hitman and Tommy responds that it was the only thing he was ever any good at. Ringo says the same, that they lie to themselves that they can give it up anytime and the next hit will be the last:

Ringo: "So you live for tommorrow. Hoping they'll be something better. Something more than death.  But there never is."

Only two men come and fetch them this time and Ringo and Tommy manage to take them down, grabbing their guns and a grenade off them. They come out blasting and manage to hit the Waterman several times.  They discuss their rivalry behind some cover.

Ringo: "It never mattered Tommy.  If it did we'd have killed each other years ago. Who's faster is a question children ask.  Not friends."

Tommy tells Sir Richard, the man who ordered the torture that he is a dead man and shoots out the camera.  The Waterman appears and zaps the huge pool of blood Tommy is standing in.  Then he challenges Ringo to come get him and runs off. Ringo follows, Tommy gasps that it must be a trap, but Ringo says "then let's have an end to it". Ringo is faced by a row of armed men and gunfire is exchanged.  Tommy recovers and goes and finds all the men dead, the Waterman gone and Ringo, having been hit several times, just about dead. He asks if Tommy will help him one last time and Tommy agrees.

Ringo's last stand.
 The Waterman returns with more men, and when one of them goes to turn over Ringo's body it activates a grenade and it blows all of them, including the Waterman to bits.  Ringo's shade and the mysterious "Death" character look on.

Ringo: "That's all?"

Death: "Yes.  That's a lifetime"

Ringo: "And what comes now?"

Death: "Up to you. You can leave here, move on to where it is you're going.  Or you can come and work for me."

Two weeks later, Tommy goes to Hong Kong and kills Sir Richard.  Then he returns to Noonan's and he, Natt and Sean drink to Ringo's memory.

THE MORNING AFTER THE NIGHT BEFORE - This is a much more lighthearted one-shot after the emotional rollercoaster of the previous arc.  Tommy wakes up in bed with Wendy after they ended up sleeping together commiserating Ringo's death.  When Tiegel spots a love bite on Tommy's neck she punches him out.  Later Natt and Tommy pull a farcical hit which ends up having them drown the victim in a toilet.  The story ends with Tiegel tricking Tommy into taking off all his clothes and leaves him in a room with one of the zoo's lions as punishment for his infidelity.
Tiegel is awesome.
FRESH MEAT -  This is probably the weakest arc in the series.  Tommy and Natt get accidentally zapped back to the time of the dinosaurs, a gang of T-Rexes follow them back to the present and cause havoc in Gotham.  But the pollution of the 20th Century makes it distasteful for them and they return back to their own time.  Does have it's amusing moments, like when one of the T-Rexes eats Baytor then spits him out as he tastes foul and Sean taking one out with a machine gun and deciding to use it as a meat supply as the ongoing No Mans Land thing is making food harder to come by.  It feels like an attempt to repeat the popular "Zombie Night" story only with dinosaurs but it lacks the true silliness that two parter had.

THE OLD DOG - The story starts with a voiceover from Tommy saying that he and Sean were up at the cemetary at Pat's grave and Sean told him he wanted the inscription "The Old Dog" on his stone. Then we join Hacken, Sean and Tommy having a drink and Sean tells them about his childhood.  He ran away from his abusive father and ended up stowing away on a ship.  It was 1940 and the ship was a merchant cruiser called the HMS Jervis, a private vessel commandeered by the British military, outfitted with a few guns and left protecting convoys.
The HMS Jervis had better days.
He is discovered by a friendly cockney called Carey and the Captain of the ship leaves Sean in his care while the set off on another escort mission.  A week later the convoy is attacked by a German ship and the HMS Jervis sacrifices itself to keep the German ship busy and give the convoy time to escape.  Sean makes it to a lifeboat and ends up in a British orphanage for the rest of the war.  When he returned home after the war was over, he broke every bone in his father's body.

The action then cuts to the pre-wedding of a woman called Isabella.  She is the grandaughter of Men's Room Louie, and she wants an elderly assassin called Benito who is her Uncle, to bring her Tommy's head on a spike for a wedding gift.  Back with Tommy, he bumps into Tiegel and tries to talk to her but gets kicked in the crotch for his trouble.  Three days later he tries again but as they talk, Benito comes up behind Tommy and sticks a knife in his back.  Tiegel manages to grab Tommy's gun and fend off Benito for the moment and Tommy says to take him to Noonan's.  Sean, with great concern, closes the bar so he can concentrate on patching Tommy up.
Back with Benito, he tells Isabella he tracked Tommy to Noonan's and he'll need lots of men to flush him out and a blind eye from the cops for 24 hours.  Both of these things she can sort out. Sean and Tiegel work on Tommy, when Tiegel says the assassin said his name was Benito, Sean says that explains a lot.  That Benito likes to use knives to because he likes to feel them going in.  Sean then warns Tiegel she might want to leave as things are likely to get "lively" soon.  She says she is staying though she has "no idea why".  Tommy comes round the next day and they have a talk.  Tiegel says she can't understand it, they are all stone killers but the show such care and loyalty to each other.

Tiegel: "I wanted Sean last night sitting with you 'til dawn and tending your wound, and I saw the fear for you in his eyes. And my God I thought, no father loved his son more."
Tiegel and Tommy share a moment
She says her own father was a great guy and when he died in the line of duty (he was a cop too), she felt the bullet in her own heart.  Then she asks Tommy if he's talked to Sean about this.  Tommy says no, it'd be weird and also there are some things that don't need to be said. Then Benito and his goons arrive and demand Tommy be turned over to them and Sean, Natt, Hacken, Tiegel, Sixpack and Baytor get ready to defend him and the bar.

A gun battle erupts and Tommy ends up joining them in defending the bar, saying he's not about to just lie down and let others fight for him to Sean "because that's not how you raised me."  Sean then asks Tiegel to piss Benito off a bit so she shoots at him grazing his cheek.  Benito then sneaks round the back of the bar with some men.  One of them gets swallowed by Baytor, but the rest manage to grab Tommy, before Benito can kill him, Sean kills everyone but Benito.
Sean gets his badass moment.
Holding Benito hostage they use him to get the rest of the men to back off. They tie Benito up and plan to use him to negociate with his family. Sean then tells Tommy to get his wound looked at properly.  As he and Natt leave, Tommy seems on the verge of telling Sean how he feels about him, but ends up just saying "see you later". Sean is left alone with Benito, and after making a phonecall about a mysterious favour he is calling in, he tells Benito to call his family.  Benito asks for a cigarette first.  Later Tommy and Natt return to the bar and find both Sean and Benito dead.  Sean has been stabbed in the chest and he shot Benito before he died.
Tommy: "I wanna cry Natt. So much. But these Goddamned, stupid, worthless eyes won't even let me cry."

Tragic.  The final chapter is an epilogue taking place around fifty years later. Noonan's is still standing and Baytor is still tending bar.  Some young men have come to visit it after reading about Tommy's exploits from a book, which has also rather mangled his exploits. After a flashback to a poker game between Tommy, Sean, Ringo, Pat and Hacken an old man drinking at the bar comes and sets the young men straight about a few things.

Who could this be...?
He tells them what happened when Sean was killed, and a silent two page spread shows Tommy standing in a church amongst many dead bodies, with Isabella draped over the altar. He then says they are all long gone, including Tommy, Natt and Sixpack:

Old Man: "All gone now. Alla them. Years an' years ago, swept up by somethin'... somethin' inside them, that made them step into the valley of the shadow, when they coulda got away instead."

He says he never understood until much later, but they were such a brilliant crew.  Then he makes to leave, saying it's all ancient history that teaches all the wrong lessons.  When one of the young men asks him what his name is, he replies "Hacken" and leaves.

The story ends with a return to Tommy and Sean's conversation about what he wanted on his gravestone.  Tommy refused to put "The Old Dog", instead he has it inscribed with "Beloved Father" instead.  Oh.. I have something in my eye... I have something in my other eye... I have something in my heart!

Overall this is a very strong book, with two very sad character led arcs and a couple of more light hearted ones to prevent the whole book being suffocated by grimness. Tommy's friends and loved ones are gradually being whittled away, adding to a sense of impending doom, especially when you know the next book is the last in the series.  The book really captures the tension between characters wanting to leave the profession they are in, yet having to stay in it because of something being inescapable about it.  Time and again Ennis makes you care about characters who in any other book would be classed as despicable villains and the McCrea/Leach team continue to shine on art duties. This book really proves that anyone can die, and as we go into the final book, we know Hacken will make it but we're left wondering out of Sixpack, Tiegel, Natt and Tommy who will survive the end of the series.  Tune in next week and find out folks.


  1. forgot how sad things get towards the end, tho i did like the dinosaurs story myself.

  2. The dinosaurs story is decent, but I was trying to keep this post to a manageable length and the others were just more important overall.