The greatest superhero team from the greatest comic book of all time make their return to DC Comics in this emotional tour de force. But should this super-team have stayed in the Cauldron? Find out in our review below! Mild spoilers ahead!
Written by Garth Ennis
Illustrated by John McCrea
The greatest super heroes of all time, unseen since the end of the hit series HITMAN, have returned for the greatest super hero story ever told!
Befuddled hero Sixpack returns to Gotham City, desperate to rebuild the all-star team known as Section Eight in the face of a deadly threat. He gathers old friends Bueno Excellente, Baytor and the seemingly reborn Dogwelder, along with some new faces – but he still needs that elusive eighth member. And that’s when the Dark Knight Detective gets an offer he can’t refuse in part one of this unforgettable six-issue miniseries.
Let’s just get this out of the way: “Hitman” is the best superhero comic DC ever published. You could make the case for stuff like “Swamp Thing” and “Final Crisis” being more important or something, but “Hitman” is one of the few comics that really embraced the craziness of the DC Universe while being grounded in some of the best character work Garth Ennis has ever done. In case you haven’t read it, “Hitman” was about Tommy Monaghan, a contract killer living in The Cauldron: an Irish-American neighborhood of Gotham that even Batman tries to stay out of. After accidentally getting powers from blood aliens during one of DC’s weird 90’s crossovers, Tommy finds himself more and more exposed to the super heroics of Gotham. Imagine Justice League meets The Boondocks Saints. That’s “Hitman”.
Unfortunately, Tommy isn’t here right now for reasons that would spoil a comic from fifteen years ago. Instead, we have Sixpack and Section 8. And boy are they a sight to see. Sixpack is the alcoholic leader of a team that included heroes like Dogwelder and The Defenestrator: a man who carries around a window for the express purpose of throwing people through it. After the climax to their story in “Hitman”, Sixpack has found himself back in Gotham for some sort of threat. Don’t ask what it is, it’s a threat. A Justice League level threat, probably.
The nice thing about “All-Star Section 8” is that it picks up right where “Hitman” left off. I don’t just mean storywise either. I’ve been a fan of Garth Ennis for a while, but not when all of his comics involve people being awful to each other. It’s why I’ve more or less ignored the existence of “Crossed” for the past seven years. And yet, Ennis’s return to the world of “Hitman” includes a return to writing characters who aren’t totally awful. Likeable, even. They still do terrible things, but they’re charming. Are you really going to boo against a guy named Dogwelder?
Speaking of Dogwelder, “Section 8” is going to be a favorite of anyone who enjoyed the original “Hitman” series, but may alienate new readers. Seeing old characters and locations again is great, especially when they’re drawn by original series artist John McCrea, but I’m a little worried for new readers who have no context on what’s going on, considering most of this issue is a horrifically drunk man screaming at Batman while a guy named Bueno Excellente quietly laughs in his bathrobe. That said, “Section 8” really does go beyond the scattered brains of its cast to explore their real wants and their desires. Sixpack just wants to be a superhero, even if he has a lethal blood alcohol level. He’s insane, but he feels like a real character and not just some caricature.
Of course, a lot of the life in “Section 8” and its characters can be attributed to John McCrea who is not afraid to get his hands dirty. His art carries a manic energy in it that makes what should be a disturbing scene like Sixpack’s public freakout into something incredibly funny. Plus, there are a lot of new design quirks that I don’t remember from the original series, like Sixpack remembering Bueno Excellente while his dripping mouth fades in from the background. There are a lot of cool tricks at play in this book, including some tributes to the Jim Aparo and Kelley Jones. When Sixpack meets him, Batman is constantly in poses from “Death in the Family” or “Knightfall”. That may just be a throwaway joke, but I’m pretty certain it means Sixpack is projecting his memories of iconic Batman moments onto some stranger. Batman should come back next issue and turn out to be a total dick named Arnold.
Final Verdict: 8.9 – “All-Star Section 8” #1 is a great throwback to one of DC’s underrated classics and a lesson in how to make dangerously insane characters endearing. While it may not do much to attract new readers, “All-Star Section 8” is the perfect comic for anyone wanting to take a trip back to The Cauldron.