A spinoff — if not a spiritual successor — to the cult hit 90s series “Hitman,” “All-Star Section Eight” #1 brings Garth Ennis and John McCrea back to the DC Universe. A purposely gross and entertaining attack on the very idea of returning to a long-dormant concept, Ennis’ script is the funniest he’s been in ages and McCrea packs every panel with hilarious details, both disgusting and subtle. The book doesn’t really go anywhere and readers shouldn’t expect a big-time action plot, but rather a send-up of superheroes via the dredges of the community.
Ennis aims to deconstruct scenes and ideas rather than whole stories, as the plot of the issue itself is paper-thin. The beats of the issue allow the writer to attack the ronin-like quality of lone hero tales like “Old Man Logan” as the story begins in flashback, giving Six-Pack — the leader — his only capable hero moment, itself a possible distortion of fact from the character’s vantage point. Much of the story, in fact, comes from Pack’s drunken point of view. In the highlight of the story, he runs into Batman and attempts to recruit him, only to be brushed off as the Caped Crusader deals with a parking ticket, a situation dealt with in overdramatic fashion.
The new team consists of characters just as funny as the original lineup, like Powertool, The Grapplah! and the return of Dogwelder. Ennis cares little for the continuity of the current DC Universe and editor Marie Javins allows him a long leash to tell the story, but enough of one that keeps the writer’s more drastic sensibilities in check. Ennis works incredibly well when he has boundaries, albeit wide ones. Though some of his stories in the past have gone off the rails, delving too far into uncensored gross-out territory, he toes the line just enough in this issue. The pathos of a classic Ennis story isn’t contained in this issue, though the writer has been known to play the long comedy game before punching readers with a knockout blow.
In a series of homages to some of the most iconic Batman shots ever, McCrea channels the character’s classic Neal Adams shot from “The Joker’s Five Way Revenge” as he sprints to his car, the back-breaking cover of “Batman” #497 and his shadowed, broken mourning of Jason Todd from “Death In The Family,” right down to an homage to Jim Aparo’s signature. The comic is very insider-y and may require readers with a bit of depth to their knowledge of the genre to fully appreciate everything happening here. McCrea jams other panels full of odd jokes, like the putrid secretions of Six-Pack or a side character reading “Everest: The Hard Way” by Dr. Stephen Hawking.
Of all the DC YOU initiative books, “All-Star Section Eight” is the most offbeat release of them all. It’s a vessel for some fun and gross humor, strangely inventive in its visual storytelling and knows exactly what it wants to be. Ennis and McCrea work together as a fantastic storytelling team and it’s great to see them together once again. Fans with a deep knowledge base will get a lot out of the issue, but anyone picking up this book should have a blast.