Saturday, 29 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 TWO

"A beer at Noonan's, sure.  Just add it to the lista things we'll never do again" - Tommy

And so Tommy Monaghan's story comes to an end, chronologically speaking anyway.  The eight part "Closing Time" arc is what I'm looking at today which sees Tommy's luck finally run out as superior firepower and sinister forces beyond his control all contrive to cause his death.  There was a later JLA/Hitman mini that came a few years after this and which I covered in part one of my look at this volume, though that was set before Tommy's demise.  But was Tommy supposed to die when he did?  It seems that Ennis wanted to do more with the character but DC cancelled it before he could.  He's quoted on Wikipedia as saying: "I miss Hitman a lot. Preacher finished when it was supposed to, so there are no regrets with it — but Hitman could have gone on a lot longer."  Which is a shame, but at least Ennis was able to wrap up Tommy's story with an epic finale which reaches back to the early issues for a villain and has Tommy go out in style, dying to save an innocent life and to save a friend from a gruesome fate.  And it's a death that became more and more inevitable as the series wore on, as Tommy circle of friends dwindled because of him.  Pat Noonan - Dead; Ringo Chen - Dead; Sean Noonan - Dead; Sixpack - Missing, presumed dead; All of Section 8 bar Bueno Excellente - Dead as Dead can be. To have Tommy pull off a Karma Houdini after all that would have just been wrong.  But will Natt the Hat and Tiegel get swept away as well?  Let's find out, shall we?
Maggie Lorenzo
CLOSING TIME - The story begins with Maggie Lorenzo being chased by men with guns.  She's the woman from the Vampire two-parter in book six who lost her son, and now it seems Tommy has been looking out for her so she is running to him.  Meanwhile, Tommy is telling Natt about a dream he had.  He and Natt went to Noonan's and everyone was there, Pat, Ringo even his sister Frances and Sean looked at them and said:

Dream Sean: "Drinks onna house fellas. There ain't no closing time.  But you gotta leave you guns at the door."

They reach Noonan's and Baytor serves them drinks and Tommy recounts how earlier in the day he was at Tiegel's grandfathers funeral.  He went to go and check out who was at Sean's grave and while he's gone, Tiegel's sister, a cop in New York asks if Tiegel has considered giving Tommy up to the police to get her job back.  Sister COncepta is tending to Sean's grave.  She chides Tommy over his rampage of revenge at the church after Sean's death.

Tommy: "He was the greatest guy I ever knew in my whole life, Connie. He died trynna save me from those animals. I set things right the only way I knew how".
Sister Concepta
Connie says that there were children at the church who'll grow up thinking guns are the solution to every problem now. Then the conversation turns back to Sean:

Concepta: "He wasn't a great man.  Or a good man. Or some kind of saint. He did some decent things and he did some evil things... he was just a man and I loved him more than God Almighty".

Back in the present, Maggie arrives at Noonan's and gabbles out a story about seeing a twisted human creature rip out the throat of a man.  Then some government came and shot it in the head, but losing half it's brain didn't stop it.  They blasted it to bits then went to grab Maggie as she had witnessed it but she was already running.  Two government men then appear in Noonans and demand they hand her over. 
What Maggie saw
This goes poorly for them, and when the search their bodies the gang find out they are with the CIA.  One of the men's phone rings and Tommy picks it up, through the conversation he has there he finds that Truman, the villain of Book 3, who wanted Tommy to be on hand to assassinate superheroes, is behind all this.  Tommy tells him to back off and hangs up.  Truman contemplates Tommy as a loose end that needs tying up.

Then Kathryn McAllister appears.  She appeared very briefly in book 3 tricking Green Lantern into going after Tommy. She says she was working for Truman, but he's gone too far this time, wanting an innocent woman dead. The action then cuts to a man, blindfolded, shooting targets with pinpoint accuracy.  He is Marc Navarone, son of Johnny Navarone, the ace assassin Tommy managed to kill through luck in book two and he's working for Truman.

Back at Noonan's, McAllister tells Natt, Tommy and Maggie that Truman is using the DNA from the Bloodlines monsters to try and create his own superheroes.  And that the wild man Maggie saw was his first attempt.  He has an army of loyal agents and is ensconced in a secret location in Gotham.  She found all this out by hacking into the Pentagon files.  But she tripped an alarm and had to shoot her way out.  She will not let Truman kill Maggie, to her that's unacceptable.  Tommy asks what they can do, MaCallister sys the local cops will be no use, Truman has them in his pocket.  The FBI might be of help though. She asks Tommy to buy her lunch.
Kathryn McAllister
Over lunch McAllister says she is sick of her company work, that "killing for my country has somehow lost its sparkle." Then a brute appears with a gun saying they have to come away with him.  Tommy shoots him through the table.  Then the mans phone rings, it's Truman who tells him that the dead man has a video cassette in his pocket they should view.  So Tommy and McAllister go to Pat's old place and watch it.  It shows Marc Navarone in action and this freaks Tommy out.  Then the VCR begins to smoke and MaCallister realises the video had thermite in it.  She dives for the window taking Tommy with her.  They land on the fire eascape but the blast knocks MaCallister off.  Tommy pulls her up and they kiss passionately.

The action then jumps forwards to Tommy being attacked in a bar and a gunfight ensuing.  As he fights he thinks:

Tommy: "You know who I was? I was the kid in school who was smart, but never tried. Who was tough, but never fought.  Who survived because the big kids liked his jokes, an' the little kids were easier meat. I was in your class.  You remember me."

He uses a grenade to terminally deal with his attacker and then the action shifts to Truman and his head researcher.  All they have managed to do is create mutated humans with an insatiable hunger.  They have to keep them tied down and gagged and the worst thing is behind all the murderous, hungry impulses, the men remember who they were and know what has happened to them. Truman tells his head researcher to take off their restraints and film the result.  The researcher tries to tell Truman they can't make superheroes this way. That they have effectively murdered one hundred military volunteers.  But Truman is adamant.  He wants his superheroes and the experiments will continue.
Failed attempts at making superheroes.
Back with Tommy, heis on his way to Tiegel's mulling over sleeping with MaCallister the previous night.  Tiegel is psyching herself up to "arrest" Tommy.  He arrives and tells her:

Tommy: "I'm bad for you.  I'm always gonna be bad for you.  I'm gonna let you down again, an' again, an' again, or I'm gonna get you hurt, or maybe even killed. So we oughta stop doin' this. We oughta decide to stay from each other an' stick to it for a change.  For both our sakes."

He then hands her one hundred grand to set her up in a new life in New York. She reluctantly accepts it.  When she asks why he is doing this he says Gotham is hell, she should leave and have a good life because she is "good people".  Then he departs.   Back at the motel, McAllister asks whether people like them are damned.  Tommy siad he saw something bad coming down the line and wanted to put things right. After sleeping together again, they repair to Noonan's to discuss the situation with Natt and Maggie.
Sexy time!
McAllister says Truman has a tighter grip on the police force than she expected. The CIA won't stop Truman because they don't want the massive loss of face it would incur. She is waiting for her FBI contact to sort out a safehouse for Maggie, until then all they can do is sit tight.  Natt decides to go home and catch some sleep and Tommy walks him out.  Natt chews him out for trusting the "government bitch", but before Tommy can say why he trusts her, they are cuaght in an explosion. Another person is trying to collect the bounty on Tommy and Natt's head, but before he can finish them off, a mysterious figure shoots him in the head.  He introduces himself to Tommy as his "guardian angel" and that "Sean Noonan sent me".  He then knocks Tommy out saying he'll save his life "whether he likes it or not."

When Tommy comes around, he is tied to a chair.  His captor introduces himself as Lieutenant Connolly and he owed Sean a fabour from way back.  Sean phoned him before he died asking him to look out for Tommy. When the police were warned away from the area around Noonan's he knew someone was coming for Tommy and decided to get to him first. Tommy pleads to be let go so he can protect Maggie.  Connolly says the favour was to look ou for Tommy alone and he leaves him.
Tommy then has a flashback to his childhood, playing with Pat and watching Sean win the bar in a game of poker.  Then it moves forwards to him in his late teens and his first kill.  He and Pat were buying a lot of dope and the seller demanded more cash.  When he attacked Pat and Tommy with a knife, Tommy shot him. Sean is mad at them for dealing dope and killing but he also says to Tommy that:

Sean: "You always stick by your friends. If it comes to it, you give your life for them.  It's just that tonight you took your first step that's only got one possible end, an' believe me I know."

Sean then tells Tommy to join the marines, and that it won't be like the film Full Metal Jacket.  The story then cuts to Tommy lined up with the other trainee marines being yelled at exactly like the film.  Back in the present, he and Connolly discuss the fact that those who do not learn from history are destined to repeat it.  Then Connolly tells Tommy he's scum and leaves him alone again.

Natt who was knocked out in the explosion, comes around and McAllister says they have to go save Tommy. Natt then has a flashback to when he met Tommy in the marines.  Tommy gave him some advice on firing his gun more effectively.  Later two marines try to strongarm Tommy into paying a "tax".  When Tommy laughs in their faces, they attack him.  But Natt arrives and knocks them out.
Tommy and Natt in the Marine Corps.
They sit on a tank and have a chat.  Tommy is on a sniper course, while Natt is learning to drive a tank. Tommy invites Natt to come to Gotham and he'll show him around when they both get out of the marines. The story then jumps forward to the two protection racket guys confronting Natt in the showers.  They are armed and drunk and go to cut off Natt's balls when Tommy takes them both out with his sniper rifle.  Natt is full of gratitude and they cover up the scene by removing the bullets and casings, putting the bodies behind a tank then having Natt reverse over them in the morning.  The coroner finds that it was an accident, that the men got drunk and passed out behind the tank.  As Natt and Tommy declare their troubles over, Saddam Hussein invades Kuwait.

Back in the present, Natt finds Conolly's location in Sean's old address book.  he and McAllister leave Hacken guarding Maggie and go to rescue Tommy.  Natt flat out states he doesn't trust MaCallister, but she finds Tommy using night vision goggles.  They sneak into the deserted house next door but it's been booby trapped and Natt steps on a mine.  If he removes his foot it will go off. McAllister says this might teach Natt something about trust as she prepares to defuse the mine.
Truman won't listen to reason.
Meanwhile, Truman looks on as the mutant humans rip and tear each other to shreds. The doctor says Truman has basically built a death camp, Truman says he employed the doctor to give him superhumans and superhumans he will get.  Then he says he's set things up so that Marc Navarone will confront Tommy on the streets of Gotham the next night. McAllister works on defusing the mine and confesses to Natt that she is falling for Tommy:

McAllister: "I just have this feeling he and I might be each other's way out of this. It's never enough to promise yourself you'll retire.  You're taking this one last job. It's always such a lie. But promise someone else - someone who knows what it's like - promise each other you'll quit and God knows what will happen."

She removes the mine's fuse and then she and Natt burst into Conolly's flat.  Natt and Connoly grapple, but McAllister puts an end to the fight.  They release Tommy and tie up Connolly. Tommy asks to speak to Connolly alone.  Connolly asks if this is the special thing Sean thought Tommy was destined to do, save a woman no one would ever miss.  But Tommy says she is due a chance like everyone else, and after this he will be hanging up his guns and that would be enough for Sean and Pat.
Tommy is set free.
Back with Truman and Marc Navarone.  Marc is practising on the dead bodies of three of the mutants.  Truman tells him he'll be facing Tommy the next night and Marc says he can't wait to kill him. Truman says he is also to take out Maggie and Tommy's friends as well.  At Noonan's, McAllister says her FBI contact has managed to arrange one helicopter to take them away and witness protection for Maggie only.  So she, Tommy and Natt will have to leave the conuntry.  Tommy says Truman is the problem, so why not use the tunnels under Gotham to take the fight to him and unleash a "ton of nine milimetre" on him and his cohorts.

There is another flashback, this time Connolly remembers how Sean saved his life when he was a cop new to Gotham and was captured by two men he saw burgling a jewelers.  They bought him to Sean to have him killed but when Sean refused, one of the men attacked him and Sean gunnes him down.  Then he released Connolly saying he owed him one. Connolly gets free and tries to get the police to protect Maggie and Tommy but he's told to attend the coming gun battle as an observer only.
Tommy, Natt and MaCallister storm Truman's base and a huge gun battle ensues.  Marc Navarone climbs into the ceiling so he can surprise Tommy.   Tommy, Natt and McAllister find the doctor burning his notes, and they watch the video recording of the mutant men tearing each other apart in absolute horror.  The doctor babbles that he tried to tell Truman it wouldn't work, but Truman wants superheroes.  Then a horribly mutated "man" comes in, and Natt puts it out of it's misery.  Marc Navarone then pops out of the ceiling and holds a gun to Tommy's head.  But when he goes to fire it, he left the safety on.  Tommy guesses that Marc never actually ever pointed a gun at a man before and gently takes it from him and shoots him dead.

Tommy and friends retreat as Truman is long gone and escape through the tunnels.  When they get to the surface they decide that when Maggie is in witness protection they will all leave the country.  Tommy reads McAllister's mind at her request and finds out she is in love with him, then he and Natt go for one last drink at Noonan's.
The Gotham PD is so corrupt.
As Tommy and Natt drink and discuss the situation, Tiegel finishes packing up and departs Gotham, while Connolly stations himself on a roof opposite Noonan's, saying what is going to happen will happen there. Maggie who is pregnant, says she wants to call her kid Tommy, as thanks for all he's done for her.  Tommy says she shouldn't, it was a name given to him out of spite and it ended up in a mess of blood:

Tommy: "I never got out from under it either. All I've got to show for my twenty-eight years is a long dark trail of slaughter an' killin' an' my friends gettin' knocked off one by one. There ain't nothin' to celebrate or remember so don't OK?"

McAllister tools up and boards the helicopter, her FBI contact says Truman will have a small army waiting for them. Meanwhile Tommy and Natt chat some more.  Tommy regrets not telling Sean what he meant to him while he still could.  Natt says he thinks Sean knew. They don't think they've faced odds this bad before and Tommy says their luck was due to run out sometime. He then asks Natt why he is doing this.  Natt says he has Tommy's back as usual and that he also feels guilt about killing good people in the past. They get ready to leave and Hacken tries to come with them.  They knock him out then bid Baytor farewell.  When the door has closed Baytor says quietly "goodbye boys".
'Tis but a fleshwound!
They run for the helicopter under heavy fire.  A sniper bullet hits Tommy in his left hand taking off his fingers.  Natt gets shot in the chest but kills his attacker and keeps on going.  Tommy and Maggie reach the helicopter but Natt has fallen behind them.  He begs Tommy to kill him, terrified that he'll be experimented on.  Tommy makes a decison and runs back to Natt shooting Truman as he does so.

Connolly discards his police badge and walks away, saying "we are such small men".  And the book ends with a fatally injured Tommy and Natt dying together.

Natt asks Tommy to tell him about his dream again, and then they both pass on. The end.

This final arc is a real emotional rollercoaster.  For the first time, Tommy takes a long, hard look at his life and doesn't like what he sees.  But it's too late, far, far too late.  Tiegel, the only regular not to be an out and out killer gets the closest we can say is a happy ending.  While the ones most steeped in blood pay the ultimate price. In a way it's perfect that Tommy goes out doing a proactive heroic act rather than the reactive killings that have made up most of what has gone before.  As for the series as a whole, it's been interesting once again devoting time to a longer series, after the end of the "Closing Time" arc, Garth Ennis writes that this series really felt like a secret, and he'd always be pleased when people mentioned they liked it over his more well known works of Preacher and Hellblazer.  I think it's a fantastic series that managed to pull off wacky hijinks and shocking melancholy with equal aplomb and gave you a cast of characters that you really got to know over the course of the series. It's a shame it finished before Ennis felt he had said all he wanted to say, but it went out on a high and that's the main thing.


  1. aw, i was sad it ended too. maybe dc can bring him back as part of the nu52.

  2. No! That would be a terrible idea! It might have ended earlier than planned but at least Hitman ended on it's own terms rather than lurching along as a franchise zombie like a dying dog with a harpoon in it's guts, abandoned by it's creator and passed from one uncaring hand to another.

    1. Neatly put :-D

      Truman thinks that if he wants something hard enough he'll get it, which is the great American lie.

      If Tommy wants to go to Heaven he'll have to go to Purgatory first. Also, remember the end of Ashes to Ashes?

  3. If Superman is the postive aspects of the American dream, Truman was definitely it's dark side.

    I like Tommy, but even I'm not sure he deserves Heaven...even with time spent in Purgatory. I only watched the first series of Ashes to Ashes, so am only dimly aware of the ending, but it does have similarities with Tommy's dying dream doesn't it?

    1. Basically, at the end of Ashes to Ashes it is made fairly obvious that Heaven (for coppers, anyway) is a pub.

      .....that would leave a lot of mujahideen feeling very disappointed, wouldn't it?

  4. Heaven being a pub does sound quite British doesn't it? If I ended up there I'd have to hope they did a decent array of soft drinks and had some old arcade machines I could play otherwise I'd be disappointed too ;)

    Mind you when I was a pub and club goer in the 1990's my favourite gay bar in Manchester had some amazingly camp talent nights. Now that's the sort of pub I could spend an afterlife in!

    1. I'd be happy if Heaven were a milkshake bar.