Saturday, 29 November 2014

Hitman Book 7: Closing Time (Hitman #51-60, Hitman/Lobo: That Stupid Bastich #1, JLA/Hitman #1-2 and a story from Superman 80-Page Giant #1) PART TWO

"A beer at Noonan's, sure.  Just add it to the lista things we'll never do again" - Tommy

And so Tommy Monaghan's story comes to an end, chronologically speaking anyway.  The eight part "Closing Time" arc is what I'm looking at today which sees Tommy's luck finally run out as superior firepower and sinister forces beyond his control all contrive to cause his death.  There was a later JLA/Hitman mini that came a few years after this and which I covered in part one of my look at this volume, though that was set before Tommy's demise.  But was Tommy supposed to die when he did?  It seems that Ennis wanted to do more with the character but DC cancelled it before he could.  He's quoted on Wikipedia as saying: "I miss Hitman a lot. Preacher finished when it was supposed to, so there are no regrets with it — but Hitman could have gone on a lot longer."  Which is a shame, but at least Ennis was able to wrap up Tommy's story with an epic finale which reaches back to the early issues for a villain and has Tommy go out in style, dying to save an innocent life and to save a friend from a gruesome fate.  And it's a death that became more and more inevitable as the series wore on, as Tommy circle of friends dwindled because of him.  Pat Noonan - Dead; Ringo Chen - Dead; Sean Noonan - Dead; Sixpack - Missing, presumed dead; All of Section 8 bar Bueno Excellente - Dead as Dead can be. To have Tommy pull off a Karma Houdini after all that would have just been wrong.  But will Natt the Hat and Tiegel get swept away as well?  Let's find out, shall we?
Maggie Lorenzo
CLOSING TIME - The story begins with Maggie Lorenzo being chased by men with guns.  She's the woman from the Vampire two-parter in book six who lost her son, and now it seems Tommy has been looking out for her so she is running to him.  Meanwhile, Tommy is telling Natt about a dream he had.  He and Natt went to Noonan's and everyone was there, Pat, Ringo even his sister Frances and Sean looked at them and said:

Dream Sean: "Drinks onna house fellas. There ain't no closing time.  But you gotta leave you guns at the door."

They reach Noonan's and Baytor serves them drinks and Tommy recounts how earlier in the day he was at Tiegel's grandfathers funeral.  He went to go and check out who was at Sean's grave and while he's gone, Tiegel's sister, a cop in New York asks if Tiegel has considered giving Tommy up to the police to get her job back.  Sister COncepta is tending to Sean's grave.  She chides Tommy over his rampage of revenge at the church after Sean's death.

Tommy: "He was the greatest guy I ever knew in my whole life, Connie. He died trynna save me from those animals. I set things right the only way I knew how".
Sister Concepta
Connie says that there were children at the church who'll grow up thinking guns are the solution to every problem now. Then the conversation turns back to Sean:

Concepta: "He wasn't a great man.  Or a good man. Or some kind of saint. He did some decent things and he did some evil things... he was just a man and I loved him more than God Almighty".

Back in the present, Maggie arrives at Noonan's and gabbles out a story about seeing a twisted human creature rip out the throat of a man.  Then some government came and shot it in the head, but losing half it's brain didn't stop it.  They blasted it to bits then went to grab Maggie as she had witnessed it but she was already running.  Two government men then appear in Noonans and demand they hand her over. 
What Maggie saw
This goes poorly for them, and when the search their bodies the gang find out they are with the CIA.  One of the men's phone rings and Tommy picks it up, through the conversation he has there he finds that Truman, the villain of Book 3, who wanted Tommy to be on hand to assassinate superheroes, is behind all this.  Tommy tells him to back off and hangs up.  Truman contemplates Tommy as a loose end that needs tying up.

Then Kathryn McAllister appears.  She appeared very briefly in book 3 tricking Green Lantern into going after Tommy. She says she was working for Truman, but he's gone too far this time, wanting an innocent woman dead. The action then cuts to a man, blindfolded, shooting targets with pinpoint accuracy.  He is Marc Navarone, son of Johnny Navarone, the ace assassin Tommy managed to kill through luck in book two and he's working for Truman.

Back at Noonan's, McAllister tells Natt, Tommy and Maggie that Truman is using the DNA from the Bloodlines monsters to try and create his own superheroes.  And that the wild man Maggie saw was his first attempt.  He has an army of loyal agents and is ensconced in a secret location in Gotham.  She found all this out by hacking into the Pentagon files.  But she tripped an alarm and had to shoot her way out.  She will not let Truman kill Maggie, to her that's unacceptable.  Tommy asks what they can do, MaCallister sys the local cops will be no use, Truman has them in his pocket.  The FBI might be of help though. She asks Tommy to buy her lunch.
Kathryn McAllister
Over lunch McAllister says she is sick of her company work, that "killing for my country has somehow lost its sparkle." Then a brute appears with a gun saying they have to come away with him.  Tommy shoots him through the table.  Then the mans phone rings, it's Truman who tells him that the dead man has a video cassette in his pocket they should view.  So Tommy and McAllister go to Pat's old place and watch it.  It shows Marc Navarone in action and this freaks Tommy out.  Then the VCR begins to smoke and MaCallister realises the video had thermite in it.  She dives for the window taking Tommy with her.  They land on the fire eascape but the blast knocks MaCallister off.  Tommy pulls her up and they kiss passionately.

The action then jumps forwards to Tommy being attacked in a bar and a gunfight ensuing.  As he fights he thinks:

Tommy: "You know who I was? I was the kid in school who was smart, but never tried. Who was tough, but never fought.  Who survived because the big kids liked his jokes, an' the little kids were easier meat. I was in your class.  You remember me."

He uses a grenade to terminally deal with his attacker and then the action shifts to Truman and his head researcher.  All they have managed to do is create mutated humans with an insatiable hunger.  They have to keep them tied down and gagged and the worst thing is behind all the murderous, hungry impulses, the men remember who they were and know what has happened to them. Truman tells his head researcher to take off their restraints and film the result.  The researcher tries to tell Truman they can't make superheroes this way. That they have effectively murdered one hundred military volunteers.  But Truman is adamant.  He wants his superheroes and the experiments will continue.
Failed attempts at making superheroes.
Back with Tommy, heis on his way to Tiegel's mulling over sleeping with MaCallister the previous night.  Tiegel is psyching herself up to "arrest" Tommy.  He arrives and tells her:

Tommy: "I'm bad for you.  I'm always gonna be bad for you.  I'm gonna let you down again, an' again, an' again, or I'm gonna get you hurt, or maybe even killed. So we oughta stop doin' this. We oughta decide to stay from each other an' stick to it for a change.  For both our sakes."

He then hands her one hundred grand to set her up in a new life in New York. She reluctantly accepts it.  When she asks why he is doing this he says Gotham is hell, she should leave and have a good life because she is "good people".  Then he departs.   Back at the motel, McAllister asks whether people like them are damned.  Tommy siad he saw something bad coming down the line and wanted to put things right. After sleeping together again, they repair to Noonan's to discuss the situation with Natt and Maggie.
Sexy time!
McAllister says Truman has a tighter grip on the police force than she expected. The CIA won't stop Truman because they don't want the massive loss of face it would incur. She is waiting for her FBI contact to sort out a safehouse for Maggie, until then all they can do is sit tight.  Natt decides to go home and catch some sleep and Tommy walks him out.  Natt chews him out for trusting the "government bitch", but before Tommy can say why he trusts her, they are cuaght in an explosion. Another person is trying to collect the bounty on Tommy and Natt's head, but before he can finish them off, a mysterious figure shoots him in the head.  He introduces himself to Tommy as his "guardian angel" and that "Sean Noonan sent me".  He then knocks Tommy out saying he'll save his life "whether he likes it or not."

When Tommy comes around, he is tied to a chair.  His captor introduces himself as Lieutenant Connolly and he owed Sean a fabour from way back.  Sean phoned him before he died asking him to look out for Tommy. When the police were warned away from the area around Noonan's he knew someone was coming for Tommy and decided to get to him first. Tommy pleads to be let go so he can protect Maggie.  Connolly says the favour was to look ou for Tommy alone and he leaves him.
Tommy then has a flashback to his childhood, playing with Pat and watching Sean win the bar in a game of poker.  Then it moves forwards to him in his late teens and his first kill.  He and Pat were buying a lot of dope and the seller demanded more cash.  When he attacked Pat and Tommy with a knife, Tommy shot him. Sean is mad at them for dealing dope and killing but he also says to Tommy that:

Sean: "You always stick by your friends. If it comes to it, you give your life for them.  It's just that tonight you took your first step that's only got one possible end, an' believe me I know."

Sean then tells Tommy to join the marines, and that it won't be like the film Full Metal Jacket.  The story then cuts to Tommy lined up with the other trainee marines being yelled at exactly like the film.  Back in the present, he and Connolly discuss the fact that those who do not learn from history are destined to repeat it.  Then Connolly tells Tommy he's scum and leaves him alone again.

Natt who was knocked out in the explosion, comes around and McAllister says they have to go save Tommy. Natt then has a flashback to when he met Tommy in the marines.  Tommy gave him some advice on firing his gun more effectively.  Later two marines try to strongarm Tommy into paying a "tax".  When Tommy laughs in their faces, they attack him.  But Natt arrives and knocks them out.
Tommy and Natt in the Marine Corps.
They sit on a tank and have a chat.  Tommy is on a sniper course, while Natt is learning to drive a tank. Tommy invites Natt to come to Gotham and he'll show him around when they both get out of the marines. The story then jumps forward to the two protection racket guys confronting Natt in the showers.  They are armed and drunk and go to cut off Natt's balls when Tommy takes them both out with his sniper rifle.  Natt is full of gratitude and they cover up the scene by removing the bullets and casings, putting the bodies behind a tank then having Natt reverse over them in the morning.  The coroner finds that it was an accident, that the men got drunk and passed out behind the tank.  As Natt and Tommy declare their troubles over, Saddam Hussein invades Kuwait.

Back in the present, Natt finds Conolly's location in Sean's old address book.  he and McAllister leave Hacken guarding Maggie and go to rescue Tommy.  Natt flat out states he doesn't trust MaCallister, but she finds Tommy using night vision goggles.  They sneak into the deserted house next door but it's been booby trapped and Natt steps on a mine.  If he removes his foot it will go off. McAllister says this might teach Natt something about trust as she prepares to defuse the mine.
Truman won't listen to reason.
Meanwhile, Truman looks on as the mutant humans rip and tear each other to shreds. The doctor says Truman has basically built a death camp, Truman says he employed the doctor to give him superhumans and superhumans he will get.  Then he says he's set things up so that Marc Navarone will confront Tommy on the streets of Gotham the next night. McAllister works on defusing the mine and confesses to Natt that she is falling for Tommy:

McAllister: "I just have this feeling he and I might be each other's way out of this. It's never enough to promise yourself you'll retire.  You're taking this one last job. It's always such a lie. But promise someone else - someone who knows what it's like - promise each other you'll quit and God knows what will happen."

She removes the mine's fuse and then she and Natt burst into Conolly's flat.  Natt and Connoly grapple, but McAllister puts an end to the fight.  They release Tommy and tie up Connolly. Tommy asks to speak to Connolly alone.  Connolly asks if this is the special thing Sean thought Tommy was destined to do, save a woman no one would ever miss.  But Tommy says she is due a chance like everyone else, and after this he will be hanging up his guns and that would be enough for Sean and Pat.
Tommy is set free.
Back with Truman and Marc Navarone.  Marc is practising on the dead bodies of three of the mutants.  Truman tells him he'll be facing Tommy the next night and Marc says he can't wait to kill him. Truman says he is also to take out Maggie and Tommy's friends as well.  At Noonan's, McAllister says her FBI contact has managed to arrange one helicopter to take them away and witness protection for Maggie only.  So she, Tommy and Natt will have to leave the conuntry.  Tommy says Truman is the problem, so why not use the tunnels under Gotham to take the fight to him and unleash a "ton of nine milimetre" on him and his cohorts.

There is another flashback, this time Connolly remembers how Sean saved his life when he was a cop new to Gotham and was captured by two men he saw burgling a jewelers.  They bought him to Sean to have him killed but when Sean refused, one of the men attacked him and Sean gunnes him down.  Then he released Connolly saying he owed him one. Connolly gets free and tries to get the police to protect Maggie and Tommy but he's told to attend the coming gun battle as an observer only.
Tommy, Natt and MaCallister storm Truman's base and a huge gun battle ensues.  Marc Navarone climbs into the ceiling so he can surprise Tommy.   Tommy, Natt and McAllister find the doctor burning his notes, and they watch the video recording of the mutant men tearing each other apart in absolute horror.  The doctor babbles that he tried to tell Truman it wouldn't work, but Truman wants superheroes.  Then a horribly mutated "man" comes in, and Natt puts it out of it's misery.  Marc Navarone then pops out of the ceiling and holds a gun to Tommy's head.  But when he goes to fire it, he left the safety on.  Tommy guesses that Marc never actually ever pointed a gun at a man before and gently takes it from him and shoots him dead.

Tommy and friends retreat as Truman is long gone and escape through the tunnels.  When they get to the surface they decide that when Maggie is in witness protection they will all leave the country.  Tommy reads McAllister's mind at her request and finds out she is in love with him, then he and Natt go for one last drink at Noonan's.
The Gotham PD is so corrupt.
As Tommy and Natt drink and discuss the situation, Tiegel finishes packing up and departs Gotham, while Connolly stations himself on a roof opposite Noonan's, saying what is going to happen will happen there. Maggie who is pregnant, says she wants to call her kid Tommy, as thanks for all he's done for her.  Tommy says she shouldn't, it was a name given to him out of spite and it ended up in a mess of blood:

Tommy: "I never got out from under it either. All I've got to show for my twenty-eight years is a long dark trail of slaughter an' killin' an' my friends gettin' knocked off one by one. There ain't nothin' to celebrate or remember so don't OK?"

McAllister tools up and boards the helicopter, her FBI contact says Truman will have a small army waiting for them. Meanwhile Tommy and Natt chat some more.  Tommy regrets not telling Sean what he meant to him while he still could.  Natt says he thinks Sean knew. They don't think they've faced odds this bad before and Tommy says their luck was due to run out sometime. He then asks Natt why he is doing this.  Natt says he has Tommy's back as usual and that he also feels guilt about killing good people in the past. They get ready to leave and Hacken tries to come with them.  They knock him out then bid Baytor farewell.  When the door has closed Baytor says quietly "goodbye boys".
'Tis but a fleshwound!
They run for the helicopter under heavy fire.  A sniper bullet hits Tommy in his left hand taking off his fingers.  Natt gets shot in the chest but kills his attacker and keeps on going.  Tommy and Maggie reach the helicopter but Natt has fallen behind them.  He begs Tommy to kill him, terrified that he'll be experimented on.  Tommy makes a decison and runs back to Natt shooting Truman as he does so.

Connolly discards his police badge and walks away, saying "we are such small men".  And the book ends with a fatally injured Tommy and Natt dying together.

Natt asks Tommy to tell him about his dream again, and then they both pass on. The end.

This final arc is a real emotional rollercoaster.  For the first time, Tommy takes a long, hard look at his life and doesn't like what he sees.  But it's too late, far, far too late.  Tiegel, the only regular not to be an out and out killer gets the closest we can say is a happy ending.  While the ones most steeped in blood pay the ultimate price. In a way it's perfect that Tommy goes out doing a proactive heroic act rather than the reactive killings that have made up most of what has gone before.  As for the series as a whole, it's been interesting once again devoting time to a longer series, after the end of the "Closing Time" arc, Garth Ennis writes that this series really felt like a secret, and he'd always be pleased when people mentioned they liked it over his more well known works of Preacher and Hellblazer.  I think it's a fantastic series that managed to pull off wacky hijinks and shocking melancholy with equal aplomb and gave you a cast of characters that you really got to know over the course of the series. It's a shame it finished before Ennis felt he had said all he wanted to say, but it went out on a high and that's the main thing.

Tuesday, 25 November 2014

Hitman Book 7: Closing Time (Hitman #51-60, Hitman/Lobo: That Stupid Bastich #1, JLA/Hitman #1-2 and a story from Superman 80-Page Giant #1) PART ONE

"Well I.. I guess this is it." - Sixpack

Tommy Monaghan dies at the end of Hitman.  To be blunt it's no real spoiler or surprise once you've read this far.  He dies doing a heroic thing. He dies to save his best friend from a fate worse than death.  He dies because in many ways Ennis is a supremely moral writer who has often his amoral and immoral characters pay the ultimate price of their life decisions.  He dies in the eight page final arc, "Closing Time" and the JLA/Hitman story actually was written in 2006, five years after the main series came to a close.  However as the JLA story takes place chronologically (apart from it's coda) before the final arc, I've decided to cover it in this post along with all the other issues that aren't "Closing Time" leaving the final post in this look at the Hitman series to concentrate fully on Tommy's final tale.  The other two issues from the main series, tie up the loose ends of Sixpack and the lovably useless Section 8, while the Lobo story feels like a cathartic one for Ennis as he puts the immortal Czarnian through a hilarious humliation conga.  The JLA story appears to tell a tale Ennis was denied by the cancellation of the series, that Tommy was destined to do some special and important, and is set roughly during the Grant Morrison JLA era so has all the big guns still in it, including Superman.

HITMAN/LOBO: THAT STUPID BASTICH - I've looked at Lobo before in the two miniseries collection that established his character fully as a psychopathic alien killer.  I said then that it was a some what prescient parody of what would become the "Image" comics type of murderous anti-hero, but by the 2000, what had been a humourously over the top character lampooing the excesses of the genre had become emblematic of those excesses instead and I think Ennis found that distasteful as he generally likes to explore the effects violence has on his characters lives rather than just being violent for the sake of violence, so in this issue he's using Lobo to represent all that he finds irritating about the popularity of badass killers who never get to feel the repercussions of their bad behaviour.

In this story drawn by Doug Mahnke, the main man comes into Noonan's and starts behaving with his customarily boorish behaviour.  Tommy reads his mind which "wasn't a major undertaking" and to find out his strengths and weaknesses, then Lobo starts bullying Sixpack, so Tommy pours booze all over himself and addresses Lobo as "miss".  This makes Lobo slightly annoyed:

Lobo: "No one question's th' gender o' th'main man an' lives ta tell th' tale!  Whoever yah are, ya hume bastich - consider yerself fragged!"

Tommy blows Lobo's eyes out and leads him out of Noonan's using his alchohol smell to guide Lobo.  As Lobo chases him they cross paths with some gangsters who want to kill Tommy for the bounty still on his head.  A sniper fires at him but hits Lobo instead, making him madder still.  Tommy thinks he might have bitten off more than he can chew getting Lobo angry with him, so while he thinks of a way out of this he leads Lobo to the rest of the gangsters and while Lobo kills them all, he has an idea and phones Sixpack to get Section 8 on the case.
Lobo meets his match.
Tommy then leads Lobo into a building yard where Section 8 take it in turns to assault Lobo, finally Tommy temporarily knocks Lobo out with a wrecking ball and armed with a camera and Bueno Excellente in a wedding dress they set about filming blackmail material with Bueno "marrying" Lobo and er... consumating it as well.  Then for the final touch Dogwelder welds a dog to Lobo's bum.

Later Lobo comes around and rages back to Noonan's, but before he can kill Tommy, Tommy shows him the film and says if he hurts him or anyone involved he'll release copies to everyone in the galaxy.  Lobo reluctantly leaves and Tommy, Sean (this dates to just before Sean died in the main series) and Sixpack celebrate.  This is something of a last hurrah for Section 8, as they don't come out of their next entanglement with more powerful forces very well at all. And even though I quite like Lobo myself, it's still a pretty funny issue overall.

SUPERMAN 80 PAGE GIANT #1 - Before that we get an "imaginary story" published around the time of Superman's appearence in the main Hitman series, the Eisner award winning "Of Thee I Sing" covered in my look at book five. This short story imagines what would happen if Sixpack really had superpowers and what might happen when he and Superman go on patrol together.  Needless to say, hilarity ensues as Superman says they can't fight crime by attacking criminals before they do anything.

Superman: "Haven't you heard of due process? Of constitutional rights? The law?"

Sixpack: "Ain't that for the police?"

Superman: "Well yes, but we still have to observe the same protocols, we do work outside the law techinically speaking but that doesn't just give you the right to just.. just assault whoever you want."
Sixpack and Superman. A titanic team-up!
This falls on deaf ears as Sixpack starts trying to set a prison on fire in the name of preventative justice.  Superman then introduces him to a reformed Doomsday (infamously the creature that killed him in the 90's) and together they stop an old lady being mugged.  Superman then bids Sixpack farewell with the following words:

Superman: "It's been a long, strange night Sixpack.  Okay, one last time. You do not act without proof. You use no more force than neccesary. You give the fellow a chance to repent and do the right thing.  Then.. and only then..."

Sixpack: "... you're clear to go ahead and smash his face to a bloody pulp?"

Superman: "No Sixpack.  You'll be a hero".

Then Sixpack wakes up from his drunken dream on the floor of Noonan's and tries and fails to fly away. Which ends this fun little story of the worlds grubbiest "hero" meeting the Big Blue Boy Scout.

SUPER GUY - The next Hitman story taking place in the main series begins with Tommy and Natt chasing down a naked man.  The nude man reaches around and pulls a machine gun out of his arse and fires back at them. At Injun Peak research centre, Doctor Jacksons is discussing with Doctor Haddock why his lab assisstant took off all his clothes and jumped out of the window.  Haddock says he opened something called "The Tesseract" inside his assisstant, a way of creating infinite space inside one object.  Unfortunately this drove his assisstant insane.
Back with Tommy and Natt, the nude man is using guns and explosives pulled out of his bum to fend them off.  We then join Sixpack and Section 8 meeting down in the sewers.  Friendly Fire is depressed and tries to tell Sixpack like it is:

Friendly Fire: "We're not superheroes Sixpack!  We're a bunch of deranged bastards! The whole situation is completely and totally insane!"

Sixpack accuses him of defeatism, but Friendly Fire runs down a list of just how useless they are, including accusing Sixpack of alchoholism. He then sees how gutted Sixpack is and apologises but says he was just trying to get them to face reality.

Back with the scientists, Doctor Jackson studies Doctor Haddock's notes and finds something startling.  It seems Haddock signed a pact with some entities known as "The Many Angled Ones" and performed a Satanic ritual on his assisstant to activate the Tesseract. Jackson suddenly realises the nude man should not be killed, but is too late as Tommy manages to blow the assisstant away and suddenly weird toothy shapes appear in the sky.  Down in the sewer, Sixpack thinks this is a job for Section 8.
The Many Angled Ones.
The creatures say they are The Many Angled Ones who were bound to an earthly vessel.  When that vessel was killed they were freed. It is then that Section 8 attack.  They do poorly however and are all killed apart from Sixpack and Bueno Excellente. The scientists arrive to warn Tommy, but realise they are too late.  The Many Angled Ones reward Haddock for bringing them to earth by kiling him which they say is just a taste of what's going to happen to the planet now. Totally out of their depth Tommy and Natt try and blow the Many Angled Ones up.. somehow.  But in the resulting explosion and fire only Sixpack is left standing with a forcefield around him.

Sixpack says it's because he is a superhero. The Many Angled Ones laugh at him for being prepared to sacrifice himself even when the odds against him are so overwhelming. Sixpack says that's what superheroes do. The Many Angled Ones then offer him a deal:

Many Angled One: "Come back with us.  Enter our realm. Try your strength in a battle for your own soul. Win you salvation or damnation. Do this now and we shall spare this world."

Sixpack: "Done"
Farewell Sixpack
And he leaves with them.  Gradually his mates realise he won't be coming back and erect a statue in his memory so people won't forget the sacrifice he made.  But Ennis also shows us a man called Sidney Speck at an AA meeting in New York who might just be a reformed Sixpack, but it's left up to us to decide what his fate might have been.  Ennis is a very humane writer in many ways, giving Sixpack a heroic exit for what was really a one-note joke character for the series and a possible happy ending for him too.  I take the happy ending everytime.

ON THE DARKSIDE - The framing device of this story is Clark Kent telling a story to a journalist who has been trying for two years to get to the bottom of the link between Superman and a "Gotham thug".  Clark tells the journalist he is going to tell him a story he can't print because Superman needs to confess via him.  We then flashback to the era when Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern and the Flash were all Justice League America members. There is a shuttle approaching their base on the moon that wants to touchdown there as it is in trouble.
The Justice League of America
Green Lantern flies out and scans it, then Batman tells him to get away from it, it's dangerous.  Batman then fills everyone in on the Bloodlines incident, the one where interstellar parasites ended up giving random people powers, including Tommy.  It appears that the Bloodlines virus is on the shuttle.  Batman goes to fetch Tommy so they can analyse a living Bloodlines survivor.  Sean, Natt and Ringo are all alive at this point and they are at Noonan's with Tommy, who steps out to take a call and is grabbed by Batman.

"Go for your guns.  I'll break your arm. If you even look like throwing up, I'll break both."

Tommy: "How about if I just hang here and wet my pants?"

Batman: "That would be fine."

Batman then teleports him and Tommy back up to the JLA moonbase. He introduces himself to Flash and Wonder Woman, then sees Green Lantern and jovially asks him if he remembers their team-up.  Batman is disgusted at hearing about them working together, especially as Green Lantern knew Tommy was a hitman.

Green Lantern: "Dude, it's Gotham you know? Something terrible always happens to me when I go there... Someone spiked my drink, and I don't know what happened - all I remember is this voice going Bueno over and over..."

Oh Garth, what did poor Kyle Rayner do to deserve a night with Bueno Excellente?  You bad, bad man you. Anyway, Batman starts giving a lecture on morality, which is interrupted by Superman walking in and greeting Tommy warmly. Batman flatly tells Superman that Tommy is a killer and Tommy does at least have the good grace to look ashamed in the face of Superman's disappointment.
Superman learns the truth about Tommy
They start analysing Tommy's blood and find that the Bloodlines virus on the shuttle has evolved to become stronger.  Meanwhile Superman talks with Wonder Woman about the circumstances of his meeting with Tommy and how he still believes in what he told him despite Tommy's profession. In the restroom, Tommy takes an opportunity to write "Tommy was here" in felt tip on the wall.  Suddenly the shuttle comes crashing down and takes out most of the room Tommy is in exposing him to the vacuum of space.  Luckily Green Lantern comes and rescues him using his ring much to Tommy's relief.

Superman goes into the shuttle much to Batman's annoyance, then they lose contact with him.  They also find that their powers have somehow been switched off, including Green Lantern's ring.

Wonder Woman:  "If they do get in, we're going to need weapons".

Green Lantern: "Well that's the problem.  We're the weapons and we're not working".

The crew of the NASA probe come walking across the moons surface to the JLA headquarters. Tommy surruptiously gets his guns back while the others prepare to fight hand to hand.  The NASA crew remove their helmets to reveal parasites stuck to their faces and they have a container with more in for the JLA.  Tommy fires on them and they respond with a display of superpowers.  Batman is pissed at Tommy for attacking them as the hosts are still human.  The JLA then pile in and fight them.
Batman is quickly taken out and a parasite attached to his head.  Wonder Woman realises that Batman has explosives in his utility belt and they use them to escape with Batman to a safer part of the base.   They can't kill the parasite because if "one dies, two die" mumbles the possessed Batman.  Safe for now under Aquaman's tank they ponder the situation, ie, what's happened to Superman and the fact that if the US government get wind of what has happened they'll nuke the base.

Wonder Woman takes charge, she and Tommy will return to the control room, the others will guard Batman.  Climbing a ladder to get there, the possessed crew throw more alien parasites down at Wonder Woman and Tommy.  She grabs them all and jumps off the ladder telling Tommy to "keep fighting".   At the top, Tommy is faced by a possessed Superman.  But he manages to get through to him and Superman rips the parasite of his face. Superman though is left weak, cold and shivering so Tommy goes into battle the possessed crew alone.  He kills them, then tells one of the leftover parasites to leave Batman or he'll kill the rest of them.  They do so.
Tommy takes down the infected men.
The JLA and Tommy get their powers back and the Flash makes it to the communications screen to tell the goverment to call off the nukes. Batman decides to be a hardass about Tommy's actions, saying killing is not the JLA way.

Tommy: "I ain't no superhero...I'm just some schmuck from the Cauldron an' I did the only thing I could think to do!"

Batman cuffs him and leaves him with two members of Gotham PD, who let Tommy go in lieu of gambling debts. We then return to Clark in the present, and Clark says Tommy took a decision no superhero could make.

Clark: "That's how Tommy saved the JLA...I'm talking about sheer, unadulterated, moral courage."

He says Superman and Tommy never met again, although Superman always felt an injustice had been done and wondered if he could make it up somehow. The reporter says that when he was in Noonan's, Hacken had always said that Tommy said "Superman's Okay by me."

Later Clark is now Superman and he flies up to the moon.  The base was repaired after the shuttle crashed into it but one piece of rubble was left standing.  The section of wall where Tommy wrote, "Tommy was here" on it.  And it's here Superman always comes to "offer a prayer to the Lord for the soul of a killer."
Aw Garth stop plucking my heartstrings man.
And this was the last of Tommy's appearances in the DCU, giving him a fine send off and fulfilling the prophecy Pat had about Tommy being destined to do something special.  if I have one complaint it's the art.  When John McCrea tries to make his art less styalised if tends to come off as rather bland and lifeless compared to how energetic it usually is.  I had the same complaint about his work on The Boys.  But Ennis's script mostly treats the JLA with respect and the ending is just gorgeously melancholy.  Taking this story along with Sixpack's last stand in "Super Guy", the short story in the Superman Special and the humiliation of Lobo it does feel like Garth Ennis, for all his detractors would claim otherwise, really does get what lies at the heart of the appeal of the superhero concept, even if he isn't always enamoured of it in practice.   The fall of Tommy is the only story left now, so I hope you return in a couple of days and find out how it all ends.

Friday, 21 November 2014

Hitman Book 6: For Tommorrow (Hitman #37-50)

"Life inna old dog yet" - Sean

There is a sense of impending doom in this penultimate collection.  In the previous book Tommy seemed to recognise this and yet still stubbornly refuses to change his ways and once again those close to him end up paying the price.  This volume contains four arcs, two of which - "For Tommorrow" and "The Old Dog" - see Tommy suffering yet more loss in his life and those are the two I shall cover in more depth.  It's also notable that this volume has events taking place during the idiotic Batman crossover event "No Mans Land" in which an earthquake hits Gotham City and the US government writes the city off, detonating the bridges leading into the place and leaving the citizens to fend for themselves.  There are no actual crossovers with any of the Bat-family books here, but as the comic is set in Gotham City they had to take it into account. Although they only pay lip service to it, it was a very silly idea for an event. Gotham City might be a dump, but cutting it off from the rest of America instead of sending aid seems a mad idea.  Ah well.

DEAD MAN'S LAND - This first two-parter introduces a character who'll go on to be very important in the series's final arc, a woman called Maggie Lorenzo.  The story begins with Natt visting Tommy, who's been holed up for three weeks wallowing in self pity after the events of "Katie" in the previous book. Tommy decides it's time to move on and comes down to Noonan's.  There he, Natt, Ringo and Hacken and have fun little chat about the regularity of yearly crossover events that take place in the DCU.  After a friendly target shooting game, Maggie comes to them and asks if they can help find her missing son Michael.
Meta amusment
Tommy and Natt find him but he's been bitten by a vampire and dies in front of them.  The vampire responsible comes out and trash talks them so Natt and Tommy blow all his limbs of and wait for sun up to fry him.  Then they are attacked by more vampires in a car, so run to a nearby church.  Unfortunately it's full of vampires who have overcome most of the traditional vampire weaknesses. The lead vampire (who apparently is from Ennis's run on Hellblazer) offer's Natt and Tommy a deal, to be their agents during daylight while they rule the Cauldron. Of course they stay no, and standing in a shaft of sunlight call Noonan's for backup.

They get through to Baytor who is now the bartender there and luckily he passes the message on.  Sean shows up with Ringo, Hacken, Sixpack and others and they blow the vampires away in a hail of bullets then bulldoze their bodies out into the sunlight to kill them for good.  The story ends with Tommy going to tell Maggie the bad news about her son.

FOR TOMMORROW - It begins with Ringo performing a hit on a seventeen year old boy.  Then we catch up with Tommy who is visiting Tiegel at the zoo she works at now.  She's working for free as the whole NO Mans Land thing had the zoo being told to kill all the animals for safety's sake, but she and the other keepers stayed on to take care of them. Tommy confesses that he "might be in love" with Tiegel and this pleases her and they make a date for later.
Out on the street Tommy bumps into Ringo and Wendy (the woman he dated in books one and two and who dumped him when she found out he was a hitman). Ringo finds Tommy at Noonan's later and says he couldn't deny being a hitman himself when Wendy asked how he knew Tommy and she has broken up with him.  He says he was seriously thinking of giving up being a hitman so it wouldn't come between them.  He's not happy with Tommy.

Tommy: "You know.. everyone in this whole freakin' town thinks you an' me're gonna get into it one day.  An' if we ever do I think it'll be a damn shame."

Ringo: "Perhaps. On the other hand I would not want you to die at the hands of an unworthy opponent".

At this Tommy storms out. Ringo goes to collect the money for the hit he performed at the start of the story and finds his contact has been dismembered. The culprit is an ugly, squat little fellow who introduces himself as "the Waterman".  He's been hired to seek revenge on behalf of the father of the boy he killed. There is a gun battle between Ringo and the Waterman's hired guns and Ringo manages to escape to Noonan's.

One of the series's nastiest villains.
  They have chat and Sean mentions that Tommy has been avoiding him due to his lying about Tommy's mother. Sean says he still has to look out for him, because of what Pat said about Tommy.

Sean: "An' he said 'I dunno Uncle Sean.  I just got the feelin' Tommy's gonna do somethin' special one day'".

And he and Ringo drink to that.  Back with Tommy and he's in bed with Tiegel, she asks him to tell her he loves her again and will he consider giving up being a hitman for her.  Tommy stammers that he'll think about it. Later Tommy bails on a pool game and in the car Natt asks him what's being going on between him and Ringo and Sean. Natt says getting into it over a girl with Ringo is stupid and he also needs to leave all the Ireland stuff behind him.  Tommy agrees and then gets out to go and visit Wendy.

He tries to convince her not to dump Ringo, but she is unimpressed by his character reference. Ringo arrives and seeing Tommy goes for his gun, and Tommy goes for his even while he is yelling at Ringo that they need to stop being stupid.  But before it can escalate, the Waterman's goons come crashing through Wendy's window and another gun battle ensues. Ringo tells Tommy to get a hysterical Wendy to safety and she and Tommy escape. 

Poor Wendy.
Tommy leaves her at Noonan's but before he goes back to help Ringo he apologises to Sean for being a jerk to him.  Back at Wendy's flat, the Waterman is standing in a pool of water.  Tommy steps in it and the Waterman uses his powers to electrify it and knocks Tommy out.  He wakes up after being dumped in a cell, to see a bruised and beaten Ringo sat there as well.

Ringo: "That's the problem with this hotel.  They'll let just anyone in."

The Waterman tells them he will torture them both to death, Ringo on camera for the benefit of Sir Richard who's son he killed.  And Tommy as a "private indulgence".  Then he cuts off one of Tommy's nipples. Back in their cell, Ringo says he heard about creatures like the Waterman in China.  Cold blooded vermin who lurk in the dark and prey on the unwary.  Tommy asks him if he really believes that, Ringo replies that China is a big country, in remote areas nuclear testing has left many mutated people.  He was one of the lucky ones. 
Even killers have a line they won't cross.
He grew up in terrible poverty and joined the army, where he was able to support his parents.  Six months after they came to join him in the city he was sent to Tiananmen Square as a tank gunner.  He refused to open fire and left his post saying "this is our day of shame". He was shot then imprisoned for two years in solitary confinement. Then his ex-commander Major Li brought him a photo of the heads of his parents.  Ringo then escaped, killed a coporal and hid a grenade under his body.  When Major Li turned the body over it activated the grenade and killed him.

Ringo and Tommy are taken away for more torture.  Ringo tries to bait Sir Richard into having him killed quickly but fails.  We next see them back in the cell, with Ringo minus an eye and a few ribs. Ringo says he's had access to the CIA's Bloodlines files and knows all about Tommy's capabilities.  Then he resumes his story.  He came to America by stowing away on a boat and surviving by eating rats.  His only relative there, an Uncle put him to work as an enforcer.  He killed his Uncle after he was tricked by him into killing an innocent man and went freelance as a hitman.
RIngo, fresh off the boat, starts his new career.
Ringo asks Tommy why he is a Hitman and Tommy responds that it was the only thing he was ever any good at. Ringo says the same, that they lie to themselves that they can give it up anytime and the next hit will be the last:

Ringo: "So you live for tommorrow. Hoping they'll be something better. Something more than death.  But there never is."

Only two men come and fetch them this time and Ringo and Tommy manage to take them down, grabbing their guns and a grenade off them. They come out blasting and manage to hit the Waterman several times.  They discuss their rivalry behind some cover.

Ringo: "It never mattered Tommy.  If it did we'd have killed each other years ago. Who's faster is a question children ask.  Not friends."

Tommy tells Sir Richard, the man who ordered the torture that he is a dead man and shoots out the camera.  The Waterman appears and zaps the huge pool of blood Tommy is standing in.  Then he challenges Ringo to come get him and runs off. Ringo follows, Tommy gasps that it must be a trap, but Ringo says "then let's have an end to it". Ringo is faced by a row of armed men and gunfire is exchanged.  Tommy recovers and goes and finds all the men dead, the Waterman gone and Ringo, having been hit several times, just about dead. He asks if Tommy will help him one last time and Tommy agrees.

Ringo's last stand.
 The Waterman returns with more men, and when one of them goes to turn over Ringo's body it activates a grenade and it blows all of them, including the Waterman to bits.  Ringo's shade and the mysterious "Death" character look on.

Ringo: "That's all?"

Death: "Yes.  That's a lifetime"

Ringo: "And what comes now?"

Death: "Up to you. You can leave here, move on to where it is you're going.  Or you can come and work for me."

Two weeks later, Tommy goes to Hong Kong and kills Sir Richard.  Then he returns to Noonan's and he, Natt and Sean drink to Ringo's memory.

THE MORNING AFTER THE NIGHT BEFORE - This is a much more lighthearted one-shot after the emotional rollercoaster of the previous arc.  Tommy wakes up in bed with Wendy after they ended up sleeping together commiserating Ringo's death.  When Tiegel spots a love bite on Tommy's neck she punches him out.  Later Natt and Tommy pull a farcical hit which ends up having them drown the victim in a toilet.  The story ends with Tiegel tricking Tommy into taking off all his clothes and leaves him in a room with one of the zoo's lions as punishment for his infidelity.
Tiegel is awesome.
FRESH MEAT -  This is probably the weakest arc in the series.  Tommy and Natt get accidentally zapped back to the time of the dinosaurs, a gang of T-Rexes follow them back to the present and cause havoc in Gotham.  But the pollution of the 20th Century makes it distasteful for them and they return back to their own time.  Does have it's amusing moments, like when one of the T-Rexes eats Baytor then spits him out as he tastes foul and Sean taking one out with a machine gun and deciding to use it as a meat supply as the ongoing No Mans Land thing is making food harder to come by.  It feels like an attempt to repeat the popular "Zombie Night" story only with dinosaurs but it lacks the true silliness that two parter had.

THE OLD DOG - The story starts with a voiceover from Tommy saying that he and Sean were up at the cemetary at Pat's grave and Sean told him he wanted the inscription "The Old Dog" on his stone. Then we join Hacken, Sean and Tommy having a drink and Sean tells them about his childhood.  He ran away from his abusive father and ended up stowing away on a ship.  It was 1940 and the ship was a merchant cruiser called the HMS Jervis, a private vessel commandeered by the British military, outfitted with a few guns and left protecting convoys.
The HMS Jervis had better days.
He is discovered by a friendly cockney called Carey and the Captain of the ship leaves Sean in his care while the set off on another escort mission.  A week later the convoy is attacked by a German ship and the HMS Jervis sacrifices itself to keep the German ship busy and give the convoy time to escape.  Sean makes it to a lifeboat and ends up in a British orphanage for the rest of the war.  When he returned home after the war was over, he broke every bone in his father's body.

The action then cuts to the pre-wedding of a woman called Isabella.  She is the grandaughter of Men's Room Louie, and she wants an elderly assassin called Benito who is her Uncle, to bring her Tommy's head on a spike for a wedding gift.  Back with Tommy, he bumps into Tiegel and tries to talk to her but gets kicked in the crotch for his trouble.  Three days later he tries again but as they talk, Benito comes up behind Tommy and sticks a knife in his back.  Tiegel manages to grab Tommy's gun and fend off Benito for the moment and Tommy says to take him to Noonan's.  Sean, with great concern, closes the bar so he can concentrate on patching Tommy up.
Back with Benito, he tells Isabella he tracked Tommy to Noonan's and he'll need lots of men to flush him out and a blind eye from the cops for 24 hours.  Both of these things she can sort out. Sean and Tiegel work on Tommy, when Tiegel says the assassin said his name was Benito, Sean says that explains a lot.  That Benito likes to use knives to because he likes to feel them going in.  Sean then warns Tiegel she might want to leave as things are likely to get "lively" soon.  She says she is staying though she has "no idea why".  Tommy comes round the next day and they have a talk.  Tiegel says she can't understand it, they are all stone killers but the show such care and loyalty to each other.

Tiegel: "I wanted Sean last night sitting with you 'til dawn and tending your wound, and I saw the fear for you in his eyes. And my God I thought, no father loved his son more."
Tiegel and Tommy share a moment
She says her own father was a great guy and when he died in the line of duty (he was a cop too), she felt the bullet in her own heart.  Then she asks Tommy if he's talked to Sean about this.  Tommy says no, it'd be weird and also there are some things that don't need to be said. Then Benito and his goons arrive and demand Tommy be turned over to them and Sean, Natt, Hacken, Tiegel, Sixpack and Baytor get ready to defend him and the bar.

A gun battle erupts and Tommy ends up joining them in defending the bar, saying he's not about to just lie down and let others fight for him to Sean "because that's not how you raised me."  Sean then asks Tiegel to piss Benito off a bit so she shoots at him grazing his cheek.  Benito then sneaks round the back of the bar with some men.  One of them gets swallowed by Baytor, but the rest manage to grab Tommy, before Benito can kill him, Sean kills everyone but Benito.
Sean gets his badass moment.
Holding Benito hostage they use him to get the rest of the men to back off. They tie Benito up and plan to use him to negociate with his family. Sean then tells Tommy to get his wound looked at properly.  As he and Natt leave, Tommy seems on the verge of telling Sean how he feels about him, but ends up just saying "see you later". Sean is left alone with Benito, and after making a phonecall about a mysterious favour he is calling in, he tells Benito to call his family.  Benito asks for a cigarette first.  Later Tommy and Natt return to the bar and find both Sean and Benito dead.  Sean has been stabbed in the chest and he shot Benito before he died.
Tommy: "I wanna cry Natt. So much. But these Goddamned, stupid, worthless eyes won't even let me cry."

Tragic.  The final chapter is an epilogue taking place around fifty years later. Noonan's is still standing and Baytor is still tending bar.  Some young men have come to visit it after reading about Tommy's exploits from a book, which has also rather mangled his exploits. After a flashback to a poker game between Tommy, Sean, Ringo, Pat and Hacken an old man drinking at the bar comes and sets the young men straight about a few things.

Who could this be...?
He tells them what happened when Sean was killed, and a silent two page spread shows Tommy standing in a church amongst many dead bodies, with Isabella draped over the altar. He then says they are all long gone, including Tommy, Natt and Sixpack:

Old Man: "All gone now. Alla them. Years an' years ago, swept up by somethin'... somethin' inside them, that made them step into the valley of the shadow, when they coulda got away instead."

He says he never understood until much later, but they were such a brilliant crew.  Then he makes to leave, saying it's all ancient history that teaches all the wrong lessons.  When one of the young men asks him what his name is, he replies "Hacken" and leaves.

The story ends with a return to Tommy and Sean's conversation about what he wanted on his gravestone.  Tommy refused to put "The Old Dog", instead he has it inscribed with "Beloved Father" instead.  Oh.. I have something in my eye... I have something in my other eye... I have something in my heart!

Overall this is a very strong book, with two very sad character led arcs and a couple of more light hearted ones to prevent the whole book being suffocated by grimness. Tommy's friends and loved ones are gradually being whittled away, adding to a sense of impending doom, especially when you know the next book is the last in the series.  The book really captures the tension between characters wanting to leave the profession they are in, yet having to stay in it because of something being inescapable about it.  Time and again Ennis makes you care about characters who in any other book would be classed as despicable villains and the McCrea/Leach team continue to shine on art duties. This book really proves that anyone can die, and as we go into the final book, we know Hacken will make it but we're left wondering out of Sixpack, Tiegel, Natt and Tommy who will survive the end of the series.  Tune in next week and find out folks.

Monday, 17 November 2014

Hitman Book 5: Tommy's Heroes (Hitman #23-36 and #1,000,000)

"...Aw no.  They come for us." - Natt

When I introduced book one I noted that the reissuing of the first half of the Hitman series along with new editions collecting the rest had lead to a somewhat lop-sided distribution of stories in the trades.  The first four collect the first twenty-two issues, the final three trades cram in the other thirty-eight plus bonuses.  To avoid splitting all three of those trades into two reviews, for books five and six I will highlight the most important arc's and one-shots in detail and briefly summarise the rest.  Volume seven will be split into two parts because it's all important though.  Anyway one thing I learned about Garth Ennis during my reading of his series The Boys is that he loves to take jokes and throwaway comments made in early issues and spin them into something very serious in a later one.  The standout arc in this volume sees an event in Natt and Tommy's military past told to us in issue #8 (The Final Night crossover one) come back to haunt them with terrible consequences.  This volume also includes the award winning one-shot where Tommy and Superman have a heartfelt talk about what it means to be an American superhero, showing Ennis is not totally opposed to the superhero concept.  There is also an arc where Tommy gets involved in a civil war in Africa as a mercenary, two issues where he meets a couple of long-lost family members and one where he takes part in the DC One Million crossover event. Also, the more eagle-eyed among you might spot the art is slightly different now, that's because Garry Leach has come aboard inking John McCrea's pencils, giving it a slightly softer edge but losing none of the impact. Let's begin.
It's about to kick off..
WHO DARES WINS - The story begins with an SAS man in deep cover with the IRA executing his IRA "friend" and being pulled out for a new assignment.  The action then cuts to Tommy and Natt, with Tommy reflecting on his accidentally killing of Lefty Lugano (see previous book) and who this has got him in trouble with mob boss "Men's Room Louie" (so called because he does all his business sat on a toilet). Back with the SAS, four of them are being given the assignment to kill Natt and Tommy, who were responsible for the death of an SAS patrol during Desert Storm.  One of the men, Eddie, who generally acts as a voice of reason during the whole escapade is unenthused, saying friendly fire happens all the time.  But one of the victims was the son of a Brigadier General so this is pure revenge.
Eddie, Page, Whitey and Plug.  Four badass dudes.
Tommy is meeting with Louie who says Tommy owes him a hit, but Tommy says he will only hit bad guys.  Louie threatens Tommy's friends, Tommy threatens him back by saying Ringo Chen has his back, then he leaves.  The four SAS men have arrived in Gotham and are getting tooled up by a local contact who warns them Tommy and Natt have a reputation. Tommy and Natt are drinking in the bar when the SAS attack with a stun grenade.  They then tell Tommy and Natt who they are and why they have to die.  But before they can kill them, Louie's men attack, they are also gunning for Tommy but get in a gun battle with the SAS instead creating enough chaos that Tommy and Natt manage to escape.  When they get to safety Natt tells Tommy:

Natt: "Forget any dirt bag you ever messed wit' and any badass you was ever scared of.  Forget Delta Force an' the Navy Seals and the John Wayne-assed Green Berets, an' the godamn ninja assassins, an' Sergeant Rock an' Bruce Lee an' the motherlovin' Terminator: Those dudes are SAS... They gonna kill us Tommy."
No kill like overkill.
They go to a fast food joint to try and figure out what to do next, unfortunately two of the SAS - Whitey and Plug - also walk in and another gun battle ensues, with Tommy and Natt managing to escape by the skin of their teeth again.  The SAS decide to force Tommy to come to them and go to Noonan's and kidnap Sean while he is on the phone to Tommy.  Tommy freaks out and is all set to rush and confront the SAS, but Natt punches some sense back into him.

Natt: "I gotta say, I dunno what we gonna do now man.  They got us good you know? We screwed."

Tommy: "Yeah.  Unless we do something really crazy."

So Tommy and Natt attack Louie's hideout and Tommy phones Louie telling him they'll be hitting all his operations tonight. Back with the SAS, they have Sean tied up, and Eddie is uncomfortable with this, especially when he finds a photo on Sean that shows he used to be in the army.  He says about Natt and Tommy:

Eddie: "They're a couple of tits yeah, but at the end of the day they were soldiers an' they made a mistake, an' that old bloke in there, the one we're using against them, he's a soldier too, an' it's making me friggin' sick."

He says it's a stupid job and not what he joined the regiment for. Back with Natt and Tommy, their plan is to hit enough places to get the mafia to follow them to where the SAS are and get Sean out in the confusion when the two sides clash. This plan actually works, and Natt and Tommy slip inside the building, but are surprised by Whitey.  He punches Natt and he and Tommy wrestle with a gun which goes off and the richochet kills Whitey.  Tommy and Natt slip away, and when the rest of the SAS find Whitey's body their commander, Page grimly says it's time to "go ballistic".
Gun wrestling, the sport of MEN.
Tommy and Natt are on a hill overlooking Gotham, reflecting on just how powerless the SAS men are making them feel.  They resolve to "get it together" and go back into Gotham and rescue Sean.  At Louie's place, his men tell him that the men attacking them are amazingly good, Louie wonders who the hell sent them to get him and orders all his people to come to him and protect him.

The Page puts Whitey's body in the boot of a car with a grenade to dispose of it. Eddie gives Sean food, then he and Plug reminisce over a time during Desert Storm when they were surprised by an Iraqi soldier, but he was out of ammo when he attacked and instead of killing him, they befriended him and let him go back to his side. Eddie says this vendetta has to stop, Plug says that now Whitey has been killed, if Page told them to burn the whole city to the ground he would.  They go back to their contact and demand plenty of explosive ordinance and a list of Louie's operations. Page thinks the mafia killed Whitey and he's going after them now much to Eddie's disbelief.  Eddie then lets Sean go, saying he shouldn't have to suffer this anymore.
 Eddie does the decent thing.
Sean phones Tommy and tells him he is free and they should get out of town.  Natt and Tommy agree that if they run, they'd be running for the rest of their lives and they need to end this now. After causing havoc at several of Louie's operations, Page decides it's time to get Louie himself.  Plug though has taken a bullet to the gut.  Eddie wants to get him medical treatment, but Page stubbornly says the job isn't over.  Eddie punches him, but before their fight can escalate, Plug weakly tells them to stop and that they should go get Louie.  The three of them charge into Louie's hideout and Page executes Louie.  Plug though get's shot to pieces by the mafia before what's left of them get killed too.
Of course!
Tommy and Natt arrive on the scene, but Eddie holds a gun to them, saying he can't believe they came all the way for tossers like them.  Then he tells them to get lost, he won't kill them. Page then shoots him in the back, grinning that this escapade has been "excellent sport". He then points his gun at Natt and Tommy and tells them:

Page: "No matter how long ago or how far away, your actions had consequences. Your failure to do your duty set into motion that you could not imagine."

Before he can fire, Eddie rises up behind him and breaks his neck.  He refuses Tommy's thanks and offer of help, spitting that they are "stupid yank bastards".  Then he drags Page's body into a fire with him and they both burn up in front of a shocked Natt and Tommy.  The end.
Yes, yes they are.
DOOR INTO THE DARK - One of the nice things about this series is that events have consequences. Our protagonists don't just shrug off trauma and move onto the next adventure.  They have to deal.  This one-shot shows Natt and Tommy recovering from the events of the previous arc.  It starts with Tommy have a nightmare about being shot to pieces by the SAS men.  He awakes with a start in bed with Tiegel.  Despite her spikey concern for him he won't talk about it and they have a row.  He goes to Natt's place and finds a depressed Natt has been holed up in his flat for ten days.  They go to Noonan's for a drink.  They discuss their tangle with the SAS.

Natt: "You ain't been doing much either huh?"

Tommy: "Zip.  It's kinda hard to get up the enthusiasm when someone's just wiped the floor with you an' thrown you back like you weren't even worth botherin' with in the first place."

Natt says there shouldn't be any shame in getting beaten by the SAS. Tommy says that you think that your the main event, the big story.  Then you meet someone who's really serious and you realise you just a chapter in their story.  You realise just how small you are.
Self pity time
Natt: "Mmm. We been gettin' by kinda easy last year, ain't we? Sure, we pull all kinds of crazy stuff, but mostly we get away without a scratch. Could be we was due a wake up call."

An "Irish" band start up playing, much to Tommy's distress.  Natt grins that he shouldn't deny his heritage, but Tommy says he was found in a bag on the steps of an orphanage with the name "Tommy Monaghan" written on the bag. He doesn't know if he really is Irish and if he was he wouldn't be into all this "fake shamrock" crap.

Later they leave the bar and someone tries to pull a hit on them.  Tommy lets him go but Natt blows his head off.  They argue and Natt tells Tommy he's a hitman, and showing mercy isn't going to change anything.  Tommy says he's worried that their tangle with the SAS opened a door to hell and that they are on the road to destruction or something.  Natt bids him goodnight and Tommy beds down on the floor of Noonan's and the nightmare begins again.

TOMMY'S HEROES -  Just a quick summary of this one as it's not particularly funny or insightful into the characters. Looking to get away from the Men's Room Louie heat, Tommy and Natt (along with Ringo and Hacken) take a job offer in Africa. They are to train an army filled with forcibly enlisted unskilled men to fight the rebels, who are selling heroin to fund their insurgency. Tommy befriends a British Airborne soldier named Bob Mitchell who was friends with Eddie Baker (from "Who Dares Wins"). They soon realize that President Kijaro and his super-human bodyguards, Scarlett Rose and the Skull, are evil. They meet the rebels, and Tommy is convinced to help install their leader, Christian Ributu, in Kijaro's place as long as he stops dealing heroin. Ributu is warned not to be like the other rulers, or Tommy will return.
This wasn't a bad arc, but it repeated a lot of the same themes of miltary  loyalty and duty that "Who Dares Win" did.
OF THEE I SING - This award winning one-shot deals with Tommy meeting Superman, and simply having a chat with him.  Rather than post huge quotes from it, I've picked out the pages with the main gist of their talk on them, so click to enlarge and all that. It's night time and Tommy is up on a rooftop reading a magazine with Superman on the cover, when the real Superman lands on the roof next to him.  A starstruck Tommy introduces themself and they start to talk.  Superman is troubled because he went up to save a space shuttle that was in serious trouble.  He managed to get the crew to the escape pod, but the commander who was thought dead, was actually still alive and trapped.

Superman: "It was so plain what he was thinking in that instant. When we met each others eyes. I'll take it to my grave. 'You're Superman. And you're not going to save me'.  And then God decided our time was up."

Superman was in Gotham to talk to Batman about it, who wasn't much help at soothing Superman's troubled soul. Tommy says he can't save everyone.  Superman says he is more worried about what he's come to represent.

Tommy say's he shouldn't beat himself up over an ideal he knows is garbage, that he can't possibly live up to.

Tommy: "Jeez.  You're everything that's great about this country an' you don't even know it."

Now I have seen criticisms of Tommy's idea of joining the American melting pot.  That it lauds the concept of being absorbed into a white Christian monoculture.  But this is an opinion coming from Tommy a somewhat lapsed Catholic, to Superman, raised a God fearing middle American farmboy. And the writer is Garth Ennis, who is NOT an Irish writer, but a Northern Irish writer (part of the United Kingdom not Ireland), a place with hundreds of years of religious strife as part of his history.  And I believe Ennis has made his home in New York now too and if The Boys and Hitman are taken together he has a real affinity for the ideals that America traditionally represents.

Anyway, Tommy's pep talk works and Superman thanks him and bids him farewell, though not before signing Tommy's magazine for him.  Then he flies off and Tommy does what he was up on the roof to do in the first place and that's carry out a hit.  But Superman didn't need to know that did he...?

TO HELL WITH THE FUTURE - This story was part of the DC One Million crossover event.  It's set in the 853rd Century, when DC comics would reach number #1,000,000.  A group of nerds bring Tommy forwards in time.  He's gained a rather unlikely reputation as a super-hero based on twisted versions of events in his life.  The nerds want to tap his Iconic Energy so they can all become superheroes.  Tommy says he's no icon, his real story won't be remembered and what lies in the future for him is two shots to the head and being dumped in a ditch.  The nerds send him back home to his own time and try again with another "hero" this time it's Etrigan.  This goes poorly for them, the end.

Hitman's reputation is somewhat mangled in the far future.
KATIE - After that bit of silliness, we get some severe mood whiplash dealing with Tommy's family's grim past.  After a romantic jacuzzi session with Tiegel ends in another row, Tommy leaves and bumps into Natt who has a woman with him.  She introduces herself as Frances Monaghan, Tommy's big sister. She tells Tommy she has spent five years trying to find him and their mother. She discovered via newspaper archives that a woman died at the orphanage he was found at on the same day, her name was Katie, their mother.
Frances Monaghan
Tommy barges into St. Killian's orphanage looking for Sister Concepta, who he catches with Sean in her room.  Tommy, Frances, Sister Concepta and Sean meet up a bit later on to discuss things.  Tommy is angry that he was never told about his mother being there, that he only knew he was found in a bag.  They tell him that was true, but his mother had been staying at the orphanage with a cousin who worked there, she was a frail and nervous woman and one day she took fright and ran out into the snow.  The nuns and Sean went looking for her and found her having given birth, but also stabbed to death with Tommy's name written in blood next to her.  Frances says "so the bastard got her after all."  Then says she is going back to Ireland and if Tommy wants to know more he'll have to come too.

On the aeroplane Frances tells him their mother was the town prostitute.  Men would use her for sex, then call her scum in the streets.  As a way of getting revenge on them she would name her kids after their fathers, with them having Billy, Johnny and Philomena as siblings as well. One day a man called Tom Dawson, a local property tycoon came to Katie, but warned her not to pull the same stunt with him.  She stops the story for now and the action jumps forwards to her and Tommy at a burned out cottage, Katie's home.   She has also provided Tommy with a gun. Two mysterious figures observe them and say it's time to call "the Big Man".
A lonely abode even when Katie was alive
Sean and Sister Concepta are discussing how they didn't tell Tommy the whole truth, that Katie wasn' dead when they found her, but horribly mutilated and "glad to be dying". France tells Tommy that Katie got pregnant with Toms child - Tommy. Tom, warned her not to mess with him by burning down her cottage, which killed Billy, Johnny and Philomena. Katie left Frances outside a hospital a week later and said she was going to America.  And still Tom got her.  They leave the pub they were in, but get attacked by Tom's men.  Tommy is knocked out and Frances bought to Katies cottage where Tom awaits her.  He describes gleefully how he tracked Katie down, stalked her, frightened her out of the safety of the orphanage and then mutilated her, with the screams of the nuns when they found her being good to him.
Tommy's father.  The evil dick.
Tommy manages to shoot his way out of the car boot he'd been locked in and runs to the cottage to find Frances disembowelled and barely alive. She tells him he has to get Tom and that he did this to their mother as well.  He hushes her and read it from her mind as she dies.  Tommy then busts his way into Tom's house.  Tommy yells that he's a respectable man, not like the dregs Tommy and his mother and siblings were.  Tommy shoots him in the gut and stands over him saying "scared at last?" and admisters the coup de grace while commenting that this will "piss him off forever".

Couldn't have happened to a more deserving guy.
 The story then ends with a flashback to Katie's final moments dying in the orphanage.  Sister Concepta read her a moving bible passage as she finally moves on at peace with herself.

Concepta: "And..God shall.. God shall wipe away all the tears from their eyes.  And their shall be no more death. Neither sorrow, nor crying.  Neither shall there be anymore pain.  For the former things have passed away."

And dammit, if that doesn't choke me up every damn time I read that story, it's so beautiful and sad.  The young Concepta and Sean hold each other and so ends the book on an incredibly powerful but bleak note.
Overall the book as a whole has a much more serious tone than previous ones.  Gone are the fantasy villains and instead this books shows that the most powerful enemy someone like Tommy could face is a simply a soldier trained to the absolute peak of his profession.  The contrast between the cold professionalism of the SAS and the somewhat haphazard soldiering Tommy and his crew partake of in the "Tommy's Heroes" arc is quite notable. Meanwhile, finding out his father was a killer himself can't help but leave Tommy with the feeling that maybe his own career as a hitman is a way of channeling inherited psychopathic tendencies, despite his refusal to kill good guys.  The Superman one-shot shows Ennis is not totally opposed to the superhero concept.  I think that because Superman stands for "the American Way" and because Ennis seems to really believe in that, he couldn't help but like Superman over and above all the other heroes he seems to have a disdain for. Tommy loses yet another person who got close to him, or rather who would have become close to him in the form of Frances and his relationship with Sean over the covering up of the circumstances of his mothers death is put under severe strain the fallout from which will be followed up in Book six.