Friday, May 1, 2015

31 Days of Comics: Day 1 – Your Favorite Comic

ROB'S NOTE: May has become the go-to month of the Comic’s Industry (even though National Superhero Day is late April, but whatever… Congress… pshaw).  It is when Marvel drops their big movie of the year.  May also sees the annual Free Comic Book Day celebration take place (this Saturday, so find your local comic book store and head on over).  May also has 31 days of the month so what better way to celebrate the wonderful world of sequential art with the 31 Days of Comics?

Seth Hahne, who runs the blog GoodOkBad, has put together the 31 Days of Comics challenge.  A daily challenge in which you are given a category and you have to fill it with a comic that you think fits it the best.  You’re all on the internet, I shouldn’t have to explain it to you.  For the rest of the month I will be taking this challenge.  It is my hope it encourages others to make and share their own lists either in the comments here or on their own websites.  The sharing not only might turn comic fans on to works they have yet to sample but maybe catch the eye of a few non-comic fans and highlight the diversity of the form.  

We begin on Day 1 with “Your Favorite Comic” (As always there might be some spoilers)

Hitman #60 (April 2001)
Written by Garth Ennis
Pencils by John McCrea
Colors by Carla Feeny and Heroic Age
Letters by Patricia Prentice

There can be no other choice for me but the last issue of my absolute favorite run on any comic ever.   While Garth Ennis got most of his recognition for his run on Preacher during this time, to me it was in Hitman where Ennis shinned the most.  Hitman is a perfect example of how a great writer can take an immensely silly concept created by editorial and turn it to a masterpiece that explores themes such as friendship, morality, loyalty, and honor.

The series started out of a DC Event known as “Bloodlines.”  Back in the day when every comic series put out an “Annual” edition DC tied those together by creating a story where Aliens come to the Earth and attack a bunch of people.   Most people they attacked died but others were given superpowers through some type of comic science.  DC was attempting to create a brand new slate of characters they could hopefully spin off into their own books.  I read a lot of DC at the time.  I can’t name any other character other than Hitman.

Hitman, who is never actually called Hitman, is Tommy Monaghan a hired killer with a genuine code.  He only takes hits on people he considers “bad” and he specializes in super powered individuals.  He’s based in a part of Gotham City called the Cauldron, an area so bad that Batman doesn’t even go in to it (which eliminates the whole how come Batman never has taken notice of him).  During the “Bloodlines” story he is given the powers of X-Ray Vision and Telepathy, which are very useful for a hired killer.  

The entire series is amazing and can move from laugh out loud funny (When Tommy and his buddy Natt rig a “Cat Signal” to summon Catwoman or the fight in the Gotham Aquarium against zombified sea creatures) to genuinely moving (the death of one of Tommy’s friends who refused to give up information on him).  It includes my favorite Superman story of all time (Issue #34) as well as Tommy puking Indian food on Batman’s boots (Issue #1).  Ennis’ “twisted humor” pairs well with McCrea’s slightly cartoony art, making what would be an absolutely sickening site humorous through the exaggeration involved.  As excellent as the early issues of the series are it is the last dozen or so that really highlight the brilliance of the run.

Reading the series you understand that there really is no other way to end Hitman than the way Ennis and McCrea do.  This is a dangerous life where many enemies are made.  And unlike Mr. and Mrs. Smith no amount of skill can overcome being severely outgunned.  Despite the inevitability of the end Ennis does a perfect job of portraying the consequences of not only the life Tommy has chosen but the consequences of his belief in friendship and loyalty.  One by one members of Tommy’s inner circle are taken away from him. Each loss not only puts more weight on his shoulders, but strengthens his resolve to protect the surrogate family that he has left.

In the end it is only Tommy and his best friend Natt the Hat left standing.  They are trying to protect a woman who has 200 armed government agents trying to kill her.  The Gotham Police and the CIA both have a deal to stay out of the situation and let the agents do what they will.  Their only assistance is a helicopter, procured by an agent that will take the three of them out of the country to safety.  

Although you can pretty much guess how this ends I won’t spoil the ending.  Not out of the “surprise” of it, but because no words can give justice to the emotions that pore out on the page, and if you are human out of your eyes while reading it.  
“Drinks on the house, fellas. There ain't no closin' time. But you gotta leave your guns at the door.”

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