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JLA/Hitman #1 [Review]

Quick Rating: Good
Story Title: On the Darkside Part One

Faced with the return of an old threat, the JLA finds itself in close quarters with the Hitman!

jlahitman001Writer: Garth Ennis
Art and Cover: John McCrea
Colorist: David Baron
Letterer: Travis Lanham
Asst. Editor: Harvey Richards
Editors: Peter Tomasi & Michael Siglain

Before I sat down to read this, I noticed some doubts had crept in. When this 2-parter was solicited, something about it piqued my interest–I would not have sought it out if it hadn’t. But seeing it sitting on my desk waiting to be read, I asked myself how entertaining it could possibly be. I’ve never read one single issue of Hitman. All I know of it comes from panels reprinted online and/or in Wizard magazine (such as the main character vomiting on Batman) and that the character was (one of?) the only success story to come from the Bloodlines event that ran through the 1993 DC Annuals. And the 90s JLA logo evoking a feel of the 90s-to-Infinite Crisis version of the Justice League–an era I’m not terribly familiar with–left me wondering if I’d care at all for this.

Thankfully, once I started reading, I just kept going.

We open on a scene with someone asking Clark Kent some questions, ultimately leading Kent to divulge a story Superman had shared with him a long time ago. This framing sequence leads into the core story itself. With information discovered about a returning NASA probe, the JLA realizes that a threat from the past is resurfacing, and that they’ll need access to another remnant of the past–and Batman knows just where to find such a person. Unfortunately, this person is Tommy Monaghan–the Hitman, and he doesn’t exactly mesh well with the JLA. Before too much can go down between the two parties, the real threat arrives, and the JLA finds itself in quite the ridiculous predicament, both frightening and yet almost silver-age simplistic.

Ennis crafts a very entertaining tale here, that takes these characters who–on the surface, at least–should have nothing to do with each other and puts them together in a believable fashion, while allowing the absurdity of things to also show through. The two things that stood out most to me and really tripped my geek-meter were the use of footnotes (which have me stoked to track down the referenced issues, not to merely understand what’s going on here–I get that just fine, but to read the original events characters reference and thus enjoy stuff that much more). And the Bloodlines event is mentioned by name and in broad strokes recapped–showing that other than being a generic "origin" for the Hitman, it’s an event that actually DID happen, that these characters DO remember, that actually MATTERED in the grand scheme of things.

Offhand, I’m not familiar with the artist, though the visual style feels familiar. I know that I like the visuals here, overall–the art just works, plain and simple. Though Batman in particular seems just a bit off with the sculpting of the cowl, something about it feels–somehow–like it fits.

This is the first of two chapters, probably "just" a one-off sorta story that while it references and builds on "continuity," will have no lasting impact on it at present. As a package, though, it’s a fun, enjoyable story. There’s a dark humour present here, and the character interactions speak to a fairly rich history. Also, for a guy that grew up on 90s’ comics, this carries the feel of those mid-to-late-90s comics, while the framing sequence seems pretty timeless, such that it could be taking place in the present.

If you’re a fan of the pre-Meltzer incarnation of the JLA, or of the Hitman, this should be a nice romp through familiar-but-now-gone territory. And even if you’re not familiar with one or both sides, this stands decently as its own story…and you could do a heckuva lot worse.

Ratings:

Story: 3/5
Art: 3/5
Overall: 3/5

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