Hitman #34 (1999)

Hitman #34 (1999)
“Of Thee I Sing”
Writer – Garth Ennis
Pencils – John McCrea
Inks – Garry Leach
Letters – Patricia Prentice
Colors – Carla Feeny
Separations – Heroic Age
Editor – Peter J. Tomasi
For – Archie
Cover Price: $2.50

I’ve undoubtedly asked this before, but… you ever come across an issue in the wild that you are completely positive that you own… and are shocked when you learn that you don’t?

That’s kinda where I’m sitting right now.  I had planned to cover the next chapter in our “To Catch The Predator” series… and, I was 100% sure I owned the issue we were going to discuss… I’ve seen it dozens of times, and have always left it behind because I was sure I already had it!

Well, I don’t… and that’s why we’re discussing a random issue of Hitman today!

We open atop a building in Gotham City where Tommy’s all staked out, and reading a copy of Newstime Magazine.  Imagine his surprise when, moments later, he realizes he’s been joined by the cover fella of that very same edition… Superman!

Superman, polite as ever, asks if it’s okay for him to be there… he doesn’t want to just loiter on top of his building.  Tommy waves it aside like “Are you kidding me?  You’re Superman!”  He even lets fly with a “friggin” which he immediately apologizes for.  Superman tells him it’s fine to talk however he pleases… so long as there are no women or children present.

Tommy assumes that Superman is in Gotham to hang out with Batman… and he’s not entirely off-base.  It’s just not that there’s any mission they’re supposed to be on… it’s that Superman came to Gotham to talk… because on this night… he failed.

He decides to spill his tale of woe to Tommy… ya see, that night a spacecraft headed from Earth to Mars (using time-saving experimental atomic engines) had some troubles.  Lucky for them, Superman happened to be on Monitor Duty at the JLA Watchtower… and so, he hops over to check in.

He learns that, due to intense heat from the atomic engines, their Commander (Kennedy) died trying to reach their lander… and so, Superman immediately hops to getting the job done so their mission can safely continue.  He presses the safety shield into the fire of the engines so the astronauts can board the tiny vessel.

Just then, and just before the entire thing goes boom… Superman notices that Commander Kennedy isn’t dead (yet), however, there is no time to save him!

Superman’s story continues… he came to Gotham to tell Batman about his failure, and received the same procedural “business only” responses from his World’s Finest Pal.  Tommy lights a cigarette and suggests Superman take a vacation… he’s riding himself way too hard.

Superman suggests that there’s more to it.  It’s not just the events of the evening, but what they represent.  He uses the look in Commander Kennedy’s eyes to, more or less, poke holes in the entire concept of “Superman”.  When people see Superman, they know they’re safe… they know everything is going to be okay.  But, as always… Superman can’t be everywhere.  He goes on to say that people understand that Superman won’t be everywhere… but, in their heart of hearts, they know Superman will be there for them.  This is really well done.

Then Tommy tries to assuage Superman’s guilt by… going on a rant about everything that’s wrong with America?  I mean, I get some of what hes driving at… but, this kinda feels shoehorned in.  Like this page was the catalyst for the entire issue.  Superman says… “I’ve never really thought of it like that before”, which I’m going to assume is just him being polite for taking up this odd man’s evening with his stories… because nothing Tommy says here is really all that novel.

Tommy then points across the way.  Through an opened window we can see Figs Kernahan… a bad dude responsible for a bunch of the rackets in the “Cauldron” neighborhood of Gotham City.  He uses Figs being a free man to show Superman not to be so hard on himself, after all, we’ve all got a long way to go.

Superman thanks Tommy for his time (and ear) and prepares to head off… not before Tommy sheepishly asks for an autograph though!

Superman takes off… and Tommy gets to the real reason he’d been camped out on the roof.  He pulls out his sniper rifle (which, you’d figure Superman would’ve been able to “see”)… and takes aim on Figs…

… then, so touched by his evening (and heart-to-heart) with Superman… he takes pause, and ultimately… lowers his gun.  Nah, just kidding… he blows Figs’ brains out.

We wrap up the issue with Tommy making a call and making plans to grab a bite to eat… and bragging about his chance encounter that night.

I liked this issue a lot.  Never been all that big on Hitman, the concept, character, or series… but, this was a really enjoyable story!

I like the idea of Superman just unloading his burden on a perfect stranger… it makes you wonder just how many times this might have happened “off panel” with just some rando in Metropolis or Central City or something.  Because, I mean… it didn’t take all the much prompting for Superman to start spillin’ his beans.

Since the astronaut story didn’t take place in any of Superman’s books… it also makes you wonder about the number of missions he goes on “off panel”… what’s more, how many of them ended in complete (or partial) failure.  This is really well done.

My only misgiving, and if you read the synopsis this won’t be any surprise, is that odd bit about America (which wasn’t even really anti-American or anything)… which segued into talking about Figs.  That just didn’t feel organic… it felt to me like, when you’re in the shower and you come up with (what you think is) a great talking point, and you spend the next several days trying to twist any conversation you’re in in such a way where you can drop your “genius” line.

That’s how I feel about Tommy here.  The only way this could’ve felt less organic would have been if he premised with “Can we change the subject for a moment, there’s something I’ve been dying to say…”.  Superman, ever polite, tells Tommy that he’s opened his eyes… which, c’mon, that’s gotta be a gag.  Nothing Tommy said was new or novel, and it’s certainly nothing that hadn’t been said to or by Superman.

The art here… really works for Tommy and the city, but McCrea’s Superman (outside of the excellent cover) doesn’t really work for me.  He’s too “butt-faced” and looks uncomfortable in his own skin.

The sorta-kinda “twist” at the end, really made the issue though.  Tommy just played therapist for the greatest superhero in the universe… then, splatters a bad dude’s brains all over the place.  Great juxtaposition… made even more darkly funny when you imagine Superman flying off thinking about what a “nice guy” he’d just met.  Though, really… Superman should’ve started the issue by asking, “Hey, what’s with the sniper rifle?”, right?  Ehh, whattayagonnado?

Overall… great little issue here, well worth the read.  If you’re a Superman fan, this provides a great opportunity to see him in a totally different environment.  This issue is available digitally.

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