With so many big names and big events plastered across the shelves of your LCS, sometimes great comics get left behind – buried in longboxes until someone comes along to find these Hidden Gems.
Written by Garth Ennis
Art by John McCrea, Garry Leach & Carla Feeny
Published by DC Comics
It’s easy to believe that Garth Ennis doesn’t care for superheroes. Just look at how he treats them in such works like The Boys and Punisher. But as readers of his & John McCrea’s beloved Hitman know, deep down he just might have a soft spot for the Last Son of Krypton. Okay, first a little back-story for those of you not familiar with Hitman. Back in the summer of ’93, DC’s “Bloodlines” crossover ran in the company’s annuals. It featured invading aliens sucking out victim’s spinal fluid, activating the metagene of those who survived, giving them superpowers. All of these new characters soon became punchlines (looking at you, Gunfire) or were acknowledged to pretty much suck, expect for one. Introduced in The Demon Annual #2 by Ennis & McCrea, Tommy Monaghan was a Gotham City hitman with a moral code, taking hits only on criminals. The alien attack left him with telepathy and x-ray vision, with the side effect of turning his corneas and irises solid black, leading to him always sporting shades so as to not weird out others. After a few more appearances in that title, Tommy got his own series (which lasted a respectable 61 issues), supporting cast, and locale, operating out of The Cauldron, a section of Gotham even Batman rarely ventured into. His newfound powers and helped him stay one step ahead of the game, and fans loved his humor and pragmatic thinking.
Hitman #34 sees a Tommy a bit more thoughtful than usual, having recently been through quite the ringer. He and his best friend Natt the Hatt had barely survived an encounter with some British SAS soldiers, and followed that with nearly singlehandedly liberating a small African country. So there he was, waiting on a Gotham rooftop, when who should happen to land nearby but Superman himself. Uncharacteristically nervous, as he’d previously cited Superman as one of his idols, Tommy approaches and introduces himself. (Not mentioning his line of work, of course.) The Man of Steel appears a bit depressed, and after some coaxing opens up to Tommy about what’s eating away at him. He shares a story of how he recently rescued a number of astronauts on a damaged space shuttle, but was unable to save one man. The look in the man’s eyes right before he died said “You’re Superman. And you’re not going to save me.” That look had been foremost in Kal-El’s mind ever since. He goes on to explain how bad he feels that he can’t save everyone. What follows is one of comic’s most heartfelt pep-talks as Tommy tells Superman from his own unique point of view how much the hero means to the world and how it’s impossible to live up to the ideal others have crafted around him. Of course, it wouldn’t be an Ennis comic without some kind of darkly humorous twist, and after Superman leaves we see just exactly why Tommy was on that roof to begin with.
Hitman #34 is without a doubt one of the best Superman stories I’ve ever read. It shows just how much the world weighs on his shoulders and shines the spotlight squarely on the “man” rather than the “super,” much like his appearance in Starman a few years after this. Ennis writes one heck of a Man of Steel, and the art team turns in their usual stellar work. The relationship between Supes & Tommy is extremely well done, and it and this issue are both followed up in the JLA/Hitman two-parter. If you’ve never read Hitman, DC has been reprinting the trades, expanding on previous collections and with the end goal of collecting this whole series, and I highly recommend it. If you’re not a fan of Ennis but love Superman, just track down this single issue, as it’s well worth the time and effort. Hitman #34 rates 5 out of 5 issues of Newstime.