Hitman Volume 7: Closing Time: written by Garth Ennis; illustrated by John McCrea, Garry Leach, Doug Mahnke, and others (2000-2001, 2007; collected 2012): 11 years after the series ended, DC finally gets around to finishing its collections of Garth Ennis and John McCrea’s Hitman. And it’s a wild ride to the end, complete with side-journeys to the hilarious Hitman/Lobo one-shot and the melancholy ‘coda’ to the series, JLA/Hitman, published in 2007 but taking place before the end of the regular series.
Tommy Monaghan’s life as a super-powered hitman-for-hire who only kills bad people moves inexorably towards what seems like an inevitable climax. Along the way, the body count will be just south of ludicrous. Had the series not concluded with issue 60, I’m not sure how it really could have continued — by that last issue, we’re down to about three surviving regular characters.
Before the 8-issue closing arc, we get the Doug Mahnke-illustrated Lobo ‘team-up’, in which the inexplicably popular alien bounty hunter gets literally and figuratively de-pantsed when he bugs Tommy and the boys at their favourite bar. It’s taking the piss out of a popular character in pretty typical Ennis fashion, reminiscent of his takedown of Wolverine and Spider-man during his later run on Punisher.
Ennis, of course, really hates superheroes. Except for Superman. And what he really seems to hate are grim, gritty, ‘realistic’ superheroes. The short arc involving Six-Pack and Section 8, the bizarre quasi-superheroes who frequent Gotham City’s more rundown areas, ends with a tribute to the idea of a superhero that also informs Ennis’s take on Superman both earlier in the series and in the Hitman/JLA epilogue. Someone should hire Ennis to actually write Superman. It would be a hell of a ride.
In any case, the seven volumes of Hitman mark a fascinating bit of ultraviolent comic-book story-telling that runs the gamut from slapstick to tragedy to odd, quiet moments of uplift. John McCrea’s art is gritty and violent and cartoony when it needs to be, with the inks of Garry Leach adding a real gloss to the later issues. Highly recommended in its entirety.