Hit delivers fast-paced action, bloody revenge, and pulp-style anti-heroes in a hard-boiled noir package.
The year is 1955, and the setting is Los Angeles, California. Our story begins with the news that Karlo “The Shark” Infantino, suspected of killing one of his known criminal associates, along with the man’s pregnant wife, has been acquitted on charges of murder. But when Infantino and a group of his friends head out to celebrate, Detective Harvey Slater, a senior member of the Los Angeles Police Department’s hit squad, is hot on their trail.
Serving as an informal adjunct to the infamously corrupt LAPD’s above-ground activities, the hit squads were the spiritual successors to Chief James Davis’ Gun Squad of the 1920s. Seeking out criminals who had, by whatever means, escaped the formal procedures of justice, the hit squads dealt out justice at the point of a gun. No criminal was to escape alive, and any witness to the squads’ activities was liable to suffer the same fate. For the hit squad, the rule of law came to be embodied in a brief moment of bloody justice, with suspects quietly eliminated in the dead of night. In Slater’s words, “Just because you’re not proven guilty… doesn’t mean you’re innocent.”
One glance at a page of Hit and you’re bound to recognize it immediately as a piece of noir fiction; in fact, the narrative as a whole is permeated by this filmic sensibility, from Vanesa Del Rey’s thoroughly cinematic style to Bryce Carlson’s terse, sharp dialogue. Archie Van Buren, the book’s colorist, does such a good job of conveying the drab, dirty noir atmosphere that it’s almost a shame when a ray of sunlight shines in on a scene. The argument could even be made that this comic would have worked even better as a black-and-white piece, though there’s certainly no room for complaint.
Though Hit is firmly rooted in the detective and film noir traditions, there is also a strong sense of moral ambiguity here that makes the book more than just a two-bit rehashing of the genre. The hit squads’ targets deserve what’s coming to them, no doubt, but what means can justify those ends? This is a question that comics have asked many times before, of course, but the traditional vigilante operates outside the arena of law enforcement. Here, the lines are blurred, and in the grim, hopeless world of Hit, morality is anything but cut-and-dried.
Bryce Carlson (W), Vanesa R. Del Rey (A), Archie Van Buren (C) • Boom! Studios, $3.99, September 4, 2013