While The Hit Squad may at-first-glance look like a traditional superhero comic, its intentions are actually much more ambitious. Writer Tony Kittrell crafts an intriguing supernatural backstory for the main characters, tying their origins to the concept of “Original Sin.” Despite the superhero getup of the Squad, they are actually fallen angels who – after enacting a mutiny in Heaven – were banished to Earth for their blasphemous actions. Now spending the rest of their existence amongst humanity, “they have one goal: the utter destruction of humanity.” Unfortunately, the promising premise is underserved by flat characters and an overall identity crisis: are they heroes or villains? Who should we be rooting for?
We are given the backstory for the Hit Squad right upfront in a Foreword. Not only are the members of the Hit Squad fallen angels, but they each represent physical embodiments of the “Seven Deadly Sins.” For instance, the hulking brute, Hammer, represents “Pride,” whereas the lascivious shape-shifter, Vegas, represents “Lust.”
In this introductory issue, we first meet our protagonist, Rico Brande (aka “Shooter”), as he assassinates a political leader just before he was set to pass a vote to bailout struggling countries in the European Union. Immediately after pulling the trigger, Shooter is met by those who hired him for the hit – Asa Sinn, the coordinator/leader of the Hit Squad, along with her associate, Mr. Hammer. Sinn subsequently offers Shooter a position in the organization, promising him “riches beyond [his] wildest dreams” if he should accept. The first half of the issue proceeds introduce the reader to the other members of the Hit Squad, utilizing Shooter as an entry-point.
We meet: Arson, “the silent and extremely dangerous mistress of the eternal burning flame;” Gauge, the “weapons master”; Jack Knife, “the silent weapons specialist,” and so on. Not many of the characters are given a chance to make much of a lasting impression. One of the notable exceptions, however, is Lash, who Shooter is tasked to shadow upon their first assignment together.
Their mission? Take out the brother of a corporate executive who has “turned government informant and is poised to destroy their company as well as his own brother.” However, during the mission, Shooter soon learns that Lash (Sloth) has his own ulterior motives. Lash – who possesses long, ethereal tentacles with which he’s able to unleash destruction – walks down an adjacent corridor, into a young girl’s bedroom, to presumably rape her. Shooter immediately engages Lash, who snarls back, finally revealing his true demonic nature to Shooter for the first time. What could have been a surprising reveal is undermined due to the reader being told the entire backstory for the Squad on the very first page of the comic. This would have been more satisfying if the reader, like Shooter, had also been unaware of their demonic nature.
After confronting Lash, Shooter is then forced to battle with the onslaught of the Hit Squad, as they relentlessly pursue him. After a lengthy fight, where Shooter is quite capable of holding his own against the otherworldly creatures – even dismembering Lash in the process – he’s eventually subdued, shot, and left for dead. Assembled over his ostensibly lifeless body, Hammer proclaims, “Shooter served his purposes. It was always our intention to ally ourselves with him and make him the scapegoats for our actions.” What does this mean? What does the Squad gain from murdering him? The questions don’t stop there.
Throughout the issue, the Squad is seen not only killing innocent people, but also abhorrent ones – lustful rapists, savage gangsters, and the like. For example, one member of the team is shown murdering Wall Street Executives, presumably because of their corruptive nature. Yet, don’t the Hit Squad hope to corrupt mankind, the very reason they’re murdering the Wall Street executives for? Because each member is said to represent a different sin, it’s implied that they hope to perpetuate each of those sins amongst humanity, with the shared intention of destroying mankind. Then wouldn’t it be in their best interests to keep a scummy, Bernie Madoff-type guy on Earth so that he can continue to corrupt mankind, thus making the Hit Squad’s goal more attainable?
Their goal isn’t clear and seems rather contradictory. Furthermore, they proclaim that they want to perpetuate chaos, yet they work as highly-trained professionals who are paid to murder people. They punish humans who engage in sinful acts, yet they’re paid millions of dollars to do so, and continue to engage in sinful acts themselves. The opposing moral and financial motivations behind the Squad blur what the true purpose of their organization is.
Also, why recruit a human being to the team in the first place? It’s implied that the Hit Squad needs to protect their secrecy – and thus needed Shooter to serve as the “fall man” for the hit – yet, the team proceeds to murder others for the rest of the issue in broad daylight, apparently without the fear of drawing attention to their kills. After the Squad leaves, Shooter awakes and vows, “I’m the best assassin that the world has ever seen and now the Hit Squad is in my crosshairs.” This was the best, and possibly only, character development in the first issue. Because the Hit Squad are comprised of such incredible brutality, the reader is left rooting for Shooter to defeat them; however, Shooter doesn’t again appear for the rest of the issue.
Moreover, the dialogue in particular is fairly flat and one-dimensional; each of the characters speak in the same vernacular, with no unique or discernible voice among the bunch. On a different note, there is some great artwork in this comic. There’s a ton of awesome action scenes – complete with bullet-holes, car chases, and decapitations – that truly jump off the page, although it can be a bit hard to follow at times when the art is cluttered with word bubbles.
There are certainly a number of seeds planted for future issues to grow into exciting storylines, yet the pacing seemed a bit sporadic, leaving me feeling underwhelmed by the issue’s conclusion. It might be because I’ve never read a comic explicitly from the perspective of the villain, yet I hoped to see some sort of redeeming qualities in the Hit Squad members in order for me to root for them. Instead, I’m left disappointed when Shooter, the one likable character, fails to return.
If you’re interested in The Hit Squad, you can purchase copies here.
What did you think? Is the first issue a stumble out of the gate? Or is there more to love in this superhero/supernatural genre mashup? Sound off in the comments or send us your thoughts on Twitter!