Tuesday, 25 November 2014

Hitman Book 7: Closing Time (Hitman #51-60, Hitman/Lobo: That Stupid Bastich #1, JLA/Hitman #1-2 and a story from Superman 80-Page Giant #1) PART ONE

"Well I.. I guess this is it." - Sixpack

Tommy Monaghan dies at the end of Hitman.  To be blunt it's no real spoiler or surprise once you've read this far.  He dies doing a heroic thing. He dies to save his best friend from a fate worse than death.  He dies because in many ways Ennis is a supremely moral writer who has often his amoral and immoral characters pay the ultimate price of their life decisions.  He dies in the eight page final arc, "Closing Time" and the JLA/Hitman story actually was written in 2006, five years after the main series came to a close.  However as the JLA story takes place chronologically (apart from it's coda) before the final arc, I've decided to cover it in this post along with all the other issues that aren't "Closing Time" leaving the final post in this look at the Hitman series to concentrate fully on Tommy's final tale.  The other two issues from the main series, tie up the loose ends of Sixpack and the lovably useless Section 8, while the Lobo story feels like a cathartic one for Ennis as he puts the immortal Czarnian through a hilarious humliation conga.  The JLA story appears to tell a tale Ennis was denied by the cancellation of the series, that Tommy was destined to do some special and important, and is set roughly during the Grant Morrison JLA era so has all the big guns still in it, including Superman.

HITMAN/LOBO: THAT STUPID BASTICH - I've looked at Lobo before in the two miniseries collection that established his character fully as a psychopathic alien killer.  I said then that it was a some what prescient parody of what would become the "Image" comics type of murderous anti-hero, but by the 2000, what had been a humourously over the top character lampooing the excesses of the genre had become emblematic of those excesses instead and I think Ennis found that distasteful as he generally likes to explore the effects violence has on his characters lives rather than just being violent for the sake of violence, so in this issue he's using Lobo to represent all that he finds irritating about the popularity of badass killers who never get to feel the repercussions of their bad behaviour.

In this story drawn by Doug Mahnke, the main man comes into Noonan's and starts behaving with his customarily boorish behaviour.  Tommy reads his mind which "wasn't a major undertaking" and to find out his strengths and weaknesses, then Lobo starts bullying Sixpack, so Tommy pours booze all over himself and addresses Lobo as "miss".  This makes Lobo slightly annoyed:

Lobo: "No one question's th' gender o' th'main man an' lives ta tell th' tale!  Whoever yah are, ya hume bastich - consider yerself fragged!"

Tommy blows Lobo's eyes out and leads him out of Noonan's using his alchohol smell to guide Lobo.  As Lobo chases him they cross paths with some gangsters who want to kill Tommy for the bounty still on his head.  A sniper fires at him but hits Lobo instead, making him madder still.  Tommy thinks he might have bitten off more than he can chew getting Lobo angry with him, so while he thinks of a way out of this he leads Lobo to the rest of the gangsters and while Lobo kills them all, he has an idea and phones Sixpack to get Section 8 on the case.
Lobo meets his match.
Tommy then leads Lobo into a building yard where Section 8 take it in turns to assault Lobo, finally Tommy temporarily knocks Lobo out with a wrecking ball and armed with a camera and Bueno Excellente in a wedding dress they set about filming blackmail material with Bueno "marrying" Lobo and er... consumating it as well.  Then for the final touch Dogwelder welds a dog to Lobo's bum.

Later Lobo comes around and rages back to Noonan's, but before he can kill Tommy, Tommy shows him the film and says if he hurts him or anyone involved he'll release copies to everyone in the galaxy.  Lobo reluctantly leaves and Tommy, Sean (this dates to just before Sean died in the main series) and Sixpack celebrate.  This is something of a last hurrah for Section 8, as they don't come out of their next entanglement with more powerful forces very well at all. And even though I quite like Lobo myself, it's still a pretty funny issue overall.

SUPERMAN 80 PAGE GIANT #1 - Before that we get an "imaginary story" published around the time of Superman's appearence in the main Hitman series, the Eisner award winning "Of Thee I Sing" covered in my look at book five. This short story imagines what would happen if Sixpack really had superpowers and what might happen when he and Superman go on patrol together.  Needless to say, hilarity ensues as Superman says they can't fight crime by attacking criminals before they do anything.

Superman: "Haven't you heard of due process? Of constitutional rights? The law?"

Sixpack: "Ain't that for the police?"

Superman: "Well yes, but we still have to observe the same protocols, we do work outside the law techinically speaking but that doesn't just give you the right to just.. just assault whoever you want."
Sixpack and Superman. A titanic team-up!
This falls on deaf ears as Sixpack starts trying to set a prison on fire in the name of preventative justice.  Superman then introduces him to a reformed Doomsday (infamously the creature that killed him in the 90's) and together they stop an old lady being mugged.  Superman then bids Sixpack farewell with the following words:

Superman: "It's been a long, strange night Sixpack.  Okay, one last time. You do not act without proof. You use no more force than neccesary. You give the fellow a chance to repent and do the right thing.  Then.. and only then..."

Sixpack: "... you're clear to go ahead and smash his face to a bloody pulp?"

Superman: "No Sixpack.  You'll be a hero".

Then Sixpack wakes up from his drunken dream on the floor of Noonan's and tries and fails to fly away. Which ends this fun little story of the worlds grubbiest "hero" meeting the Big Blue Boy Scout.

SUPER GUY - The next Hitman story taking place in the main series begins with Tommy and Natt chasing down a naked man.  The nude man reaches around and pulls a machine gun out of his arse and fires back at them. At Injun Peak research centre, Doctor Jacksons is discussing with Doctor Haddock why his lab assisstant took off all his clothes and jumped out of the window.  Haddock says he opened something called "The Tesseract" inside his assisstant, a way of creating infinite space inside one object.  Unfortunately this drove his assisstant insane.
Back with Tommy and Natt, the nude man is using guns and explosives pulled out of his bum to fend them off.  We then join Sixpack and Section 8 meeting down in the sewers.  Friendly Fire is depressed and tries to tell Sixpack like it is:

Friendly Fire: "We're not superheroes Sixpack!  We're a bunch of deranged bastards! The whole situation is completely and totally insane!"

Sixpack accuses him of defeatism, but Friendly Fire runs down a list of just how useless they are, including accusing Sixpack of alchoholism. He then sees how gutted Sixpack is and apologises but says he was just trying to get them to face reality.

Back with the scientists, Doctor Jackson studies Doctor Haddock's notes and finds something startling.  It seems Haddock signed a pact with some entities known as "The Many Angled Ones" and performed a Satanic ritual on his assisstant to activate the Tesseract. Jackson suddenly realises the nude man should not be killed, but is too late as Tommy manages to blow the assisstant away and suddenly weird toothy shapes appear in the sky.  Down in the sewer, Sixpack thinks this is a job for Section 8.
The Many Angled Ones.
The creatures say they are The Many Angled Ones who were bound to an earthly vessel.  When that vessel was killed they were freed. It is then that Section 8 attack.  They do poorly however and are all killed apart from Sixpack and Bueno Excellente. The scientists arrive to warn Tommy, but realise they are too late.  The Many Angled Ones reward Haddock for bringing them to earth by kiling him which they say is just a taste of what's going to happen to the planet now. Totally out of their depth Tommy and Natt try and blow the Many Angled Ones up.. somehow.  But in the resulting explosion and fire only Sixpack is left standing with a forcefield around him.

Sixpack says it's because he is a superhero. The Many Angled Ones laugh at him for being prepared to sacrifice himself even when the odds against him are so overwhelming. Sixpack says that's what superheroes do. The Many Angled Ones then offer him a deal:

Many Angled One: "Come back with us.  Enter our realm. Try your strength in a battle for your own soul. Win you salvation or damnation. Do this now and we shall spare this world."

Sixpack: "Done"
Farewell Sixpack
And he leaves with them.  Gradually his mates realise he won't be coming back and erect a statue in his memory so people won't forget the sacrifice he made.  But Ennis also shows us a man called Sidney Speck at an AA meeting in New York who might just be a reformed Sixpack, but it's left up to us to decide what his fate might have been.  Ennis is a very humane writer in many ways, giving Sixpack a heroic exit for what was really a one-note joke character for the series and a possible happy ending for him too.  I take the happy ending everytime.

ON THE DARKSIDE - The framing device of this story is Clark Kent telling a story to a journalist who has been trying for two years to get to the bottom of the link between Superman and a "Gotham thug".  Clark tells the journalist he is going to tell him a story he can't print because Superman needs to confess via him.  We then flashback to the era when Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern and the Flash were all Justice League America members. There is a shuttle approaching their base on the moon that wants to touchdown there as it is in trouble.
The Justice League of America
Green Lantern flies out and scans it, then Batman tells him to get away from it, it's dangerous.  Batman then fills everyone in on the Bloodlines incident, the one where interstellar parasites ended up giving random people powers, including Tommy.  It appears that the Bloodlines virus is on the shuttle.  Batman goes to fetch Tommy so they can analyse a living Bloodlines survivor.  Sean, Natt and Ringo are all alive at this point and they are at Noonan's with Tommy, who steps out to take a call and is grabbed by Batman.

"Go for your guns.  I'll break your arm. If you even look like throwing up, I'll break both."

Tommy: "How about if I just hang here and wet my pants?"

Batman: "That would be fine."

Batman then teleports him and Tommy back up to the JLA moonbase. He introduces himself to Flash and Wonder Woman, then sees Green Lantern and jovially asks him if he remembers their team-up.  Batman is disgusted at hearing about them working together, especially as Green Lantern knew Tommy was a hitman.

Green Lantern: "Dude, it's Gotham you know? Something terrible always happens to me when I go there... Someone spiked my drink, and I don't know what happened - all I remember is this voice going Bueno over and over..."

Oh Garth, what did poor Kyle Rayner do to deserve a night with Bueno Excellente?  You bad, bad man you. Anyway, Batman starts giving a lecture on morality, which is interrupted by Superman walking in and greeting Tommy warmly. Batman flatly tells Superman that Tommy is a killer and Tommy does at least have the good grace to look ashamed in the face of Superman's disappointment.
Superman learns the truth about Tommy
They start analysing Tommy's blood and find that the Bloodlines virus on the shuttle has evolved to become stronger.  Meanwhile Superman talks with Wonder Woman about the circumstances of his meeting with Tommy and how he still believes in what he told him despite Tommy's profession. In the restroom, Tommy takes an opportunity to write "Tommy was here" in felt tip on the wall.  Suddenly the shuttle comes crashing down and takes out most of the room Tommy is in exposing him to the vacuum of space.  Luckily Green Lantern comes and rescues him using his ring much to Tommy's relief.

Superman goes into the shuttle much to Batman's annoyance, then they lose contact with him.  They also find that their powers have somehow been switched off, including Green Lantern's ring.

Wonder Woman:  "If they do get in, we're going to need weapons".

Green Lantern: "Well that's the problem.  We're the weapons and we're not working".

The crew of the NASA probe come walking across the moons surface to the JLA headquarters. Tommy surruptiously gets his guns back while the others prepare to fight hand to hand.  The NASA crew remove their helmets to reveal parasites stuck to their faces and they have a container with more in for the JLA.  Tommy fires on them and they respond with a display of superpowers.  Batman is pissed at Tommy for attacking them as the hosts are still human.  The JLA then pile in and fight them.
Batman is quickly taken out and a parasite attached to his head.  Wonder Woman realises that Batman has explosives in his utility belt and they use them to escape with Batman to a safer part of the base.   They can't kill the parasite because if "one dies, two die" mumbles the possessed Batman.  Safe for now under Aquaman's tank they ponder the situation, ie, what's happened to Superman and the fact that if the US government get wind of what has happened they'll nuke the base.

Wonder Woman takes charge, she and Tommy will return to the control room, the others will guard Batman.  Climbing a ladder to get there, the possessed crew throw more alien parasites down at Wonder Woman and Tommy.  She grabs them all and jumps off the ladder telling Tommy to "keep fighting".   At the top, Tommy is faced by a possessed Superman.  But he manages to get through to him and Superman rips the parasite of his face. Superman though is left weak, cold and shivering so Tommy goes into battle the possessed crew alone.  He kills them, then tells one of the leftover parasites to leave Batman or he'll kill the rest of them.  They do so.
Tommy takes down the infected men.
The JLA and Tommy get their powers back and the Flash makes it to the communications screen to tell the goverment to call off the nukes. Batman decides to be a hardass about Tommy's actions, saying killing is not the JLA way.

Tommy: "I ain't no superhero...I'm just some schmuck from the Cauldron an' I did the only thing I could think to do!"

Batman cuffs him and leaves him with two members of Gotham PD, who let Tommy go in lieu of gambling debts. We then return to Clark in the present, and Clark says Tommy took a decision no superhero could make.

Clark: "That's how Tommy saved the JLA...I'm talking about sheer, unadulterated, moral courage."

He says Superman and Tommy never met again, although Superman always felt an injustice had been done and wondered if he could make it up somehow. The reporter says that when he was in Noonan's, Hacken had always said that Tommy said "Superman's Okay by me."

Later Clark is now Superman and he flies up to the moon.  The base was repaired after the shuttle crashed into it but one piece of rubble was left standing.  The section of wall where Tommy wrote, "Tommy was here" on it.  And it's here Superman always comes to "offer a prayer to the Lord for the soul of a killer."
Aw Garth stop plucking my heartstrings man.
And this was the last of Tommy's appearances in the DCU, giving him a fine send off and fulfilling the prophecy Pat had about Tommy being destined to do something special.  if I have one complaint it's the art.  When John McCrea tries to make his art less styalised if tends to come off as rather bland and lifeless compared to how energetic it usually is.  I had the same complaint about his work on The Boys.  But Ennis's script mostly treats the JLA with respect and the ending is just gorgeously melancholy.  Taking this story along with Sixpack's last stand in "Super Guy", the short story in the Superman Special and the humiliation of Lobo it does feel like Garth Ennis, for all his detractors would claim otherwise, really does get what lies at the heart of the appeal of the superhero concept, even if he isn't always enamoured of it in practice.   The fall of Tommy is the only story left now, so I hope you return in a couple of days and find out how it all ends.


  1. lobo is cool n'all but that issue still made me laff! cool send off for sixpack and tommy as well in this book.

  2. I think by this point in time Lobo needed taking down a peg or two. I still like him though, when a good writer uses him. Even if it's to take the piss like Ennis did here!

  3. i just cant believe ennis got buttsex past the editors at dc!

  4. Heh, heh, heh. Bueno, bueno, bueno... :D

  5. Not that it's stereotyping gay men as predatory nymphomaniacs at all....

    I've read more sympathetic portrayals of gay men in novels by Evelyn Waugh, a semi-racist upper-class right-wing Catholic snob writing (mostly) in the first half of the twentieth century.

  6. Hey Bueno Excellente isn't gay, he has lurve for everyone and er, everything! I know this is playing into the terrible trope that male on male rape is somehow funny, when male on female is shocking. But I don't think it was Ennis thinks of Bueno as a gay man, more.... a force of perversion. Ennis has written some very gay friendly stuff in other series, so imma give him a pass this time :D