Saturday, 6 October 2007

Who'd Like A Cocktail? #5

It was something of a patchy week, this week. Of course, that made it easier for me to pick out this week's Cocktail, the second and concluding part of JLA/Hitman by Garth Ennis and John McCrea.

To be honest out of the other issues it was only really The Search For Ray Palmer: Crime Society #1 and Countdown #30 that came close; I know Countdown's had a fair bit of criticism but I'm a sucker for this whole Multiverse thing and to have Crime Society exploring the new Earth-3 while Countdown wandered around Earth-15 gave me a buzz. Green Lantern Corps #16 gets a well deserved honorable mention as well for hotting up the Sinestro War, but it was JLA/Hitman that won out.

I'm still a fan of the original Hitman series and have the complete run and it was great to see Tommy Monaghan doing what he does best - blowing away the bad guys with a wink and a smile. Ennis's dislike, almost contempt, of superheroes is well documented - just read The Boys for evidence. It's perhaps no real surprise, then, that the plot of the story involves the heroes losing their superpowers, reducing them to the status of normal men and women.

With Superman, Batman and potentially Wonder Woman then possessed by the sub-species of the Bloodlines aliens, it falls to Monaghan to rescue the JLA armed only with a pair of nine millimetres.

The interplay between Monaghan and Batman - whose dislike of guns is almost pathological - is fantastic and manages to make a scene where Monaghan shoots half a dozen astronauts hysterically funny. The guns come in handy later when he runs into the alien-possessed Superman, shooting the hero in the chest, marking out the S-shield, letting him come to his senses. But, a moment later, it's the guns that get him in trouble.

With the situation under control and the JLA returned to their normal selves, Batman is intent upon seeing Monaghan stand trial. Confronted with a situation, Monaghan is more likely to shoot it; the JLA - Batman in particular - cannot excuse that and insists that there must have been another way. As Monaghan says in his defense, he "ain't no superhero everythin' always works out for, or a genius comes up with ideas no one else can!" He's a killer and hi solution to the problem involved killing.

A story such as this runs the risk of getting bogged down in the sort of argument mentioned above: can violence ever be justified, even if it leads to a resolution? To the ends justify the means?

Thankfully, Ennis raises the question enough so that we can think about it but doesn't spend any time telling us the answer; it appears he'd rather we figure that out ourselves. What he does do, however, is pepper the script with such wonderful snippets of humour (such as the two I've pictured) that you can forgive him not answering his own questions.

Monaghan was always something of an anti-hero on the face of it - unlike other heroes, he killed people. For money. But he was likable and funny and real enough that you didn't really mind and, as he said, he only killed the bad guys.

It was really good to read about him once more, and I half wish that of all Superboy-Prime's punches, one of them had re-written the end of Hitman #60.

The DCU is a poorer place without Tommy Monaghan.

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