Zenescope is known for its Grimm Fairy Tales line of books but have also been reaching outside of that realm of late, with series like Fly and Screwed. The former is something more fantastical than anything and the latter still has its fingers in what is arguably a legendary story that seems like myth today – that of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. Their new title, Hit List, is a little different in all regards as it is more along the lines of an unsanctioned Mission Impossible team that go up against a series of gang bangers.
Although the gist of the book can eventually be determined, we need the introduction on the first page to really give us an understanding without needing probably 5-10 issues of backstory:
Are we ever truly safe from evil? What if you had the means to play God, choosing who lives and dies? Threats exist all around us and the lives of so many have been ruined by others’ evil deeds.
A man seeks justice and yearns for a world where the hardcore criminals are simply gone from it. But what can one man truly accomplish in a war against evil?
Maybe one man isn’t enough.
The book doesn’t hesitate to jump right into the action either, with our being introduced to the first victim of the crew who are on a mission to take out a street gang that seem to love their Nazi symbols. After all, the stories of gang war and gang violence are things we’ve all heard about and have some familiarity with, for most of us hopefully anecdotally or through news reports. But the intention of this collection of hit men (and women) is to hunt down those criminals and deliver the justice they deserve, straddling that fine line of morality and justice.
Ralph Tedesco puts the words to paper here, and it is a great concept. Tedesco is a co-founder of Zenescope and is their Editor-in-Chief, and is one of the original creators of their signature Grimm Fairy Tales book. Like the other books from this publisher, this is not a book for children due to the language and the content. The dialogue is written quite well, better than some of the other books I have read from Zenescope, and I can actually envision the discussions and voices in my head as I read it (no, not those voices…). The only issue I have with the story is that I don’t know who the characters are and so I have no connection to them. I really could care less in this story as to who lived or who died – there was nothing to tie me to any one character, but I think that motivations will be explained throughout the remainder of the miniseries. Like other Zenescope titles, this series does have some strong female characters and even though the covers make it seem overly sexual the characters themselves are sexy but in a smart way. This is true for many of the books from this brand and if you can’t make it past the covers they put out then I will say that (overall) you’re missing out on some amazing stories.
The art is by Sami Kivela with colors from Bryan Valenza and letters from Jim Campbell. It is a very nice looking book, I will give it that. There are some characters who are overtly sexual in nature but in a way that makes sense – the blond bimbo, for example, needs to be drawn as a sex object when her presence is that of a sex object. The gang members are drawn tough and with the Nazi symbols tattooed on them as previously mentioned, and they do look as you would expect from your stereotypical gang member. The hit squad reminded me a lot of the movie Mr. and Mrs. Smith, with that level of professionalism and strength you would expect from such a team of assassins – what, you shouldn’t expect that the team would be overweight and breathing heavy after a hit. The background scenes are mostly done well as well, with the scenescape of the office tower in Philadelphia seeming like the building is a little… unsound structurally. (That one panel actually got to me as the building seemed out of place with the typical office buildings, but also a small typo in the spelling of Philadelphia on that page… OK, I have OCD… sue me… You should see how upset I get when I catch my mistakes in what I write which is never perfect.)
It may seem like I am critiquing a little too much, but a) that’s what I’m here to do, and b) it’s because I am looking for quality stories to excite me these days. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed the book, but I’ve said this before with other Zenescope titles: sometimes you need the full story to truly give it a 5-star rating, not just a piece of the puzzle. This is only the introduction; I have no doubt that the next chapter will heat things up, especially given how this issue ended. It is one of the best books I have read in a few weeks as it has a clear objective in mind and, because it’s in an encapsulated universe and not in a shared one, I think there are some additional liberties and freedom that can expand from that and for that reason I did like the book – it has the freedom to do something new, it is well scripted, and overall it has some great art. That’s more than I can say for many of the other comics on the shelf today. I think I’ll like it better when I can read the full story, though; we’ll just have to see.