Local Heroes opens with Tommy nursing serious injuries after the events of Ten Thousand Bullets. They’re nothing compared to the emotional impact the death of an old friend is having. On the off chance God will give him a break, Tommy loans money for a bet with 1000-1 odds from a character who takes your fingers one by one until he’s fully reimbursed. It doesn’t look like the Almighty is listening because some of Gotham PD’s crooked cops, a shady government agency and Green Lantern (Kyle Rayner) are all on Tommy’s back.

Garth Ennis is careful throughout Hitman’s run to ensure that there are always consequences for protagonist Tommy Monaghan’s actions. If you are a killer for hire, how would your love life be affected? And if you choose to have friends like Tommy does, what risks would they face when you have a natural tendency to be a wise-ass with authority figures? He manages to explore some thought provoking themes with more than a few poignant moments as a result. Ennis definitely didn’t corner the market on “serious” in the 1990s but he and artist John McCrea added real world panache to the narrative. Other anti-heroes like Lobo revelled in violence while John Constantine was a selfish git. Hitman differed in that it could go from dark brooding to laugh out loud crazy capers with just a flick of the page.

The dialogue is ‘talky’, Ennis crafting long conversations between his core cast before swinging into high octane scenarios and witty putdowns. It’s not rambling per se, redolent of a conversation between good mates and has it a natural feel. It’s satirical in its view of superheroes, both celebrating and lampooning the tropes. Some ideas like government sanction over heroes are seriously explored in later work, though here Ennis is just having fun. Most superhero material occupies viewpoints that place people within boxes. You’re either a hero or a villain your morality is black or white. Tommy’s world is morally grey, which does make for some controversial moments that aren’t always resolved or validated. Plot developments are tenuous, but that’s hardly important. The emphasis is on having outrageous fun rendered with madcap anarchy by McCrea.

The atmospheric Gotham settings have improved, with the outrageous battles raucously entertaining but deliberately abstract. Developments can be hard to follow but it improves over due course to a point where you can argue that McCrea’s is the quintessential Gotham. Most impressive in Local Heroes are the crowds. You can feel the crackle of excitement at a baseball game or the changing mood of a fickle mob cheering Tommy on as he faces down corrupt Gotham fuzz. It’s a whole different and human side to Gotham that adds a new dimension beyond the psychopaths that flourish there.

Local Heroes has its flaws but many more positives and the series is only really getting started. Next up in Hitman is Ace of Killers, one of the most outrageous and funny crossover stories ever produced.