Reading Hitman having already tackled Preacher, the much applauded later work of Garth Ennis, is like reading Tolkien’s The Hobbit after reading The Lord of the Rings. Compared to Preacher, Hitman suffers greatly from its simplicity, especially in comparison to our appreciation of what Ennis will achieve further down the line.
Hitman is a gun for hire in Batman’s Gotham City. Where Batman’s moral code requires that he capture and rehabilitate his enemies, Hitman is perfectly happy to pump them full of lead. Hitman still adheres to some morals though, and despite earning a living from killing, he’ll only hit the bad guys.
If anything, Hitman’s grey yet clearly defined morals sit uneasily together, making him difficult to empathise with. The character also suffers from existing in Batman’s world of black and white, needing to have super-human powers levered into the story to ensure his survival in this imbalanced world.
The art of John McCrea is unsuited to the stark necessities of American comics from this era, which were inked and then simply coloured, and the limits enforced on the soft, painterly style we saw in his earlier collaborations with Ennis (Troubled Souls and For a Few Troubles More) tear it to shreds.
With hindsight you can see where Ennis is going with Hitman, and it’s reassuring that this direction is Preacher-bound. Put simply, this is far from great Ennis work but we suspect that without it, Preacher might not exist. And if for that reason alone, this is worthy of some reverence. However, this appreciation is probably best left to those with an urge to follow Ennis entire career, rather than those looking to dip into the best comics can offer.