Review by Karl Verhoven
In Hitman, Section Eight was Garth Ennis and John McCrea’s team of parody superheroes. That the team was named after the eviction document landlords serve to tenants in the UK made as much sense as Section Eight including a man who smashed windows over people’s heads, a Frenchman leaping about with baguettes and one who spat on opponents. They were led by Sixpack, a small, pot-bellied alcoholic whose enthusiastic tales of former heroism had just the briefest spark of credibility. When push came to shove, though, he sacrificed himself to prevent a demonic invasion in a genuinely touching moment. Such is the strength of Ennis’ writing.
But never mind about all that. Sixpack has returned, and he’s putting the team back together again. The trouble is, only the superbly sleazy Bueno Excellente survived the previous massacre. However, there seems to be a new Dogwelder in town, and a few of the previously rejected applicants just about fit the bill, but the team’s still one member short. Cue Sixpack contacting Justice Leaguers one by one, except he first has to attract their attention: “No, I told you! We get attacked by a super villain an’ we defend ourselves an’ the real Gee El notices an’ we get him to join Section Eight!” Might it just work? Nah, not a chance in hell!
As comedy relief in Hitman, Section Eight were seen in small doses, and given the one-note joke of their characters there are credible doubts they can sustain an entire graphic novel. The short of it is that they can’t, but the masterstroke is including the Justice League members, as Ennis is builds stories around their reactions to the misfits and vice versa, each of them having a different outlook. McCrea is equally good with this, enjoying himself with some recognisable Batman poses in the opening chapter, and his artistic versatility enabling some Justice Leaguers to remain heroic in this fallen company. There are others as well, including the creators visiting past glories via a now hip-hop rhyming Demon dropping an ad plea to get his back catalogue into print. It worked. Check out Hell’s Hitman.
Just when you have All–Star Section Eight pegged as entirely knockabout comedy, Ennis switches the tone, and it turns out there’s some logic to what’s been happening after all. Philosophy 101 students, should they choose to accept it as such, are fed the concept that the entire DC Universe from day one might just be the delusional alcoholic fantasies of a man passed out in New York’s winter snow. Ennis, the old softie, even supplies a sentimental ending. Well, one sentimental ending following one of utter horror.
Section Eight are meant as a joke, but they might tell you more about heroism than any amount of Batman stories. There’s a sort of follow-up in Sixpack and Dogwelder: Hard-Trevelin’ Heroz.