When I first saw the name ‘Hitmonkey’, my thoughts immediately flew to the image of a monkey who learns how to be a hitman and goes around killing people, all the while dressed in a neat little suit. I immediately banished the thought; nothing could be that silly, nobody makes comics that aloof anymore, if they ever did. Surely, it had to be some sort of metaphor or ironic title, right?
Well…you can see the cover. It is about a monkey that goes around killing people in a neat little suit. It is silly. But it has quite a few surprises, too. Pleasant ones, even.
Surprise #1 – It pulls off a weird concept. If there’s any great success, it’s that the book helps us identify with a character that can’t even speak (in human, at least) We’re shown the world through the eyes of a monkey, more aggressive than most, but a monkey nonetheless. The events that lead up to his creation have a legendary feel to them – a hitman stumbles on the monkey’s tribe, finds sanctuary there, only to be killed by dark men hunting him down, dark men who slaughter the tribe just for a cheap laugh. From that moment on, it’s like Quentin Tarantino takes the reigns, like Kill Bill with fur and feces. It balances humor with action well; when it tries to get a laugh, it gets a laugh and when it tries to kick ass? It succeeds. And it’s over it three issues, just long enough to run the paces and keep the welcome from wearing out.
Surprise #2 – Bullseye is in it. I’d actually completely forgotten that this was a Marvel comic until he showed up; even in a universe with a talking duck, Hitmonkey seemed too farfetched, even for the House of Ideas. Having Bullseye pop-in was a shock to the system, but ultimately a welcomed one; any fan of the character will likely be pleased with his showing here. Bullseye’s hired to protect the man Hitmonkey’s out to kill, and as you might imagine, his very presence knocks the body count up a few levels and gives our protagonist a real threat to rally against. Can a monkey take down one of the best assassins in the world? It all boils down to a tight climax with a bittersweet ending on the back.
Surprise #3 – The action is well done. One would think everything is all slapstick, but one would be mistaken; things move at a fever pitch when the bullets start flying, and you find yourself pulled from page to page. It’s hard to lay a finger on the charm; I really enjoyed Hit Girl in Kickass,so it’s possible I just have an inclination towards small, deadly beings. But there’s definitely a style and edge to it all, and in spite of the absurdity of it all, it retains its coolness.
It’s not all perfect – the comic does have a bit of philosophy fetish; the general message is that killing is bad, unless you’re killing people that kill people, and then it’s good. Or something like that. Honestly, I didn’t pay much attention to the narration after the first issue set everything up, and I don’t feel I missed much. There’s also the art, which focuses a bit much on the wrinkles and shadows and comes out looking dirty. It’s hardly a damning flaw, but it could have done with a spot of polish.
Overall, this is a fun book with a fun character in fun situations. It won’t rock the world, but you’ll get your money’s worth if you’re looking for some straight entertainment.