The more observant readers among you will notice that I reviewed my Huntress conics in the last post, even though alphabetically they come AFTER Hitman, and therefore should in fact be in this post. That’s true. But only if you live in this dimension. But if you’ve been to Earth 7 (somewhere I travel to often for business), you’ll know that due to baby Kal-El’s being sent to a small farm outside of Windsor, Ontario as a baby, the alphabet has evolved in different ways, and in no way did I make a mistake that makes me look like I can’t spell.
Hitman – Hitman, Ten Thousand Bullets, Ace Of Killers, Who Dares Wins
This is a mid ’90’s series by Garth Ennis and John McRea that doesn’t get discussed much today, though it was a critical success, and for good reason. It’s about Tommy Monaghan, a Gotham-based assassin who has the power of telepathy, and X-Ray vision. Simplistic as superpowers ago, but pretty much perfect if your chosen field is sneaking up behind people and killing them.
Hitman still stands up today as a well-written, character driven, action-comedy comic. Now, critics of Ennis’ writing will say that it’s got all of the Ennis tropes: Good ol’ boys hanging around a bar acting tough? Check. Lack of a three-dimensional female lead? Check. Lots of violence and gore for the sake of violence and gore? Check.
But I don’t mind. At least for this series. In later years Ennis would take all of these characteristics of his writing style and turn them into full-blown clichés (Cough…The Boys…Cough…) but in this context, they come across as genuine and charming.
Pretty much the only negative thing I can say about this series is that it’s not served well by being part of the regular DCU. Better known DC characters like Batman or Green Lantern rarely appeared, but when they did, they were portrayed as goofy parodies of themselves, and rarely served the story. Currently only a small part of this series is available in trade, but hopefully DC reprints the rest soon.
Joker – Greatest Joker Stories Ever Told
How is it possible that the Greatest Joker Stories trade is better than the Greatest Batman Stories trade? I think it’s probably history’s fault. With the Batman volume, the editors tried very hard to include stories from every decade, and also limited their option to single issue stories. Great, except that meant leaving out so many truly great Batman stories, and including quite a few that really aren’t that great when you consider them from a big picture standpoint.
All in all, this stands up as a pretty great collection for Batman fans, though I’m still hoping that they eventually reprint all of the stories from the great Joker ’70’s series in one trade.
Joker – Joker
This is a stand alone graphic novel that Brian Azzarello and Lee Bermejo did last year to capitalize on Heath Ledger’s performance in the Dark Knight film. Azzarello pulls off a nifty trick here, writing a story that could easily fall into either the Dark Knight continuity, or into mainstream Batman continuity. Great for new readers, but I would also say that it’s one of the better recent Joker stories, though not on the level of Paul Dini’s amazing Detective Comics run from a few years ago. There’s some beautiful painting from Lee Bermejo as well.
Jonah Hex – Lead Poisoning, Only The Good Die Young, Face Full Of Violence, Bullets Don’t Lie, Guns Of Vengeance, Origins, Luck Runs Out, The Six Gun War
I’m not really sure how Justin Gray and Jimmy Palmiotti have convinced DC to let them continue with this gem of a series for so long, but I’m not complaining. For those of you who were lucky enough NOT to watch the sink-hole of a Hex film that Warners put out early this year let me tell you the concept: Tough, bad-ass gunfighter in the old west, beats up other tough, bad-ass gunfighters in the old west. That’s it. Now, you’d think that would be enough, but no. Gray and Palmiotti constantly outdo themselves on this series, and I really think it’s gotten better as time has gone on. And since most Hex stories are contained to just one or two issues, it allows the writers to have a wide array of excellent artists working on the book with them.
Probably the only time where the series falters is when Hex stumbles into supernatural adventures. Although magic is something that the character has often had to deal with, dating back to the original 1970’s series, I don’t think it worked then, and it works even less now.
Coming up next: More Justice League stories than you can shake a stick at! Many of them are terrible.