Hitman: Local Heroes (1996-97)

Hitman: Local Heroes

Local Heroes collects two story arcs; the first is the Local Heroes one, about metahuman hitman Tommy having to team up with Kyle Rayner Green Lantern to take on the C.I.A. The C.I.A. wants to start controlling the supes, and suddenly it's like The Boys in here. I hadn't realized writer Garth Ennis worked through ideas over such a long term; Ennis has got his themes—like drunk Irish men—but if I've ever recognized echoes throughout his career, I've forgotten. I've also never read this far into Hitman before, and maybe everyone knows about the Boys echo. Whatever. Just saying.

So the main story is four issues. The second story is two issues. All by Ennis and artist Joel McCrea. You get pretty much equal amounts Hitman in both; the difference is there are subplots in the feature story, and the back-up's pretty much all action. Which one is better? Well, the feature's Ennis constantly pwning Kyle Rayner (with D.C.'s consent and, therefore, tacit approval), and it's pretty funny. It even manages to get a little deeper in contrast, with Ennis delving into the moralities of the comic and its protagonist, turning it into a slight humor bit with Green Lantern and sort of leaving it running in the background. Every once in a while, there's a return to it—also because Tommy picks up a new love interest, a suspended Gotham City cop who just happens to be intelligent, head-strong, incorruptible, and adorable with family members. Her name's Detective Tiegel, but he calls her Debs because it's post-feminist when Tommy does it. After all, he clearly respects her.

Another Ennis theme—the lady sidekick.

So Tiegel is also questioning the morality of hanging out with a hitman, which helps keep that subplot going even when Green Lantern isn't pontificating about it.

The bad guys are Truman and Feekle (sound it out); Truman's the brain, Feekle's the muscle. They hire the cops (roping Tiegel into the narrative) to help them kill Tommy if Tommy doesn't play ball, but then after Tommy doesn't, and the cops bungle it, they bring in Green Lantern Kyle Rayner because Kyle Rayner is a dope. Things continue to go wrong, leading to varied team-ups between the good guys against the bad guys. Also, in the background, Tommy is a local hero for standing up to the cops and his continued mourning over his best friend (killed last collection).

Ennis really plays up the neighborhood setting of Hitman, creating a Hell's Kitchen analog in Gotham called "The Cauldron." It's overboard, but it's okay. Like, the comics are from the mid-nineties, years before Daredevil got popular enough to make it seem like a lift. Ennis's wordy Tommy narration almost entirely focuses on his mourning, which is fine. I mean, it's definitely wordy, but it's okay.

Similarly, Tommy and Tiegel are fine. They're cute enough together, but it feels too soon. The story opens with Tommy bemoaning his recent breakup (over being a hitman), and it's not like they have enough chemistry anything needs rushing. They're just a good team. But Tommy's a good partner for anyone. Even Green Lantern Kyle Rayner. Tommy's most crucial superpower is the chemistry Ennis gives him with other characters. Tommy's a smart-ass but not aggressive about it.

The second story has Tommy and his fellow mercenaries and hitmen going up against a bunch of zombies. Some mad scientist kills his partner—it's Gotham City, after all—and wants to prove to the world they figured out how to make zombies.

The narrative's real simple; Tommy gets the job, Tommy goes on the job, it's the job. Sure, there are constantly arriving sidekicks, some with potential drama, but if it plays out, it plays out on the job. It's a mostly action story, and it's full of great zombies. Like, McCrea and Ennis come up with a great twist for the zombies and the rules to zombies. It's inventive in a way they don't need to worry about when there are four issues to the story. Two-parter is set up, cliffhanger, cliffhanger resolve, third act, epilogue. There's no time for subplots or girls or conspiracies. It's lean.

And it's great.

Kind of better than the main story. Because the main story's just good, the second story's great.

Hitman's an outstanding comic.

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