In a remote area of Japan, a nameless assassin wipes out a military unit serving a corrupt politician, but is himself terribly wounded in the process. He retreats, fleeing into the mountains, where he collapses, only to be rescued by a pack of Japanese snow monkeys, who pull him into their snowbound hot spring sanctuary, feed him healing herbs, and allow him to regain his strength.
One monkey in particular is fascinated by the assassin, helping him and watching as the assassin recovers and retrains himself by beating the crap out of snowmen.
The assassin is barely recovered when a new military team enters the mountains, killing him and the tribe of monkeys. Only the one monkey who had watched over the assassin survives. Using the martial arts and handgun skills he learned watching the assassin, the monkey then slays the entire team of killers.
And so his quest for revenge begins.
His journey–egged on by the ghost of the assassin–takes him to the politician's headquarters, where he fights, kills, maims, and ultimately decimates the entire operation. His biggest opponent in this whole thing: the popular Daredevil villain Bullseye, who takes the challenge very seriously.
Oh, yeah, and at some point the monkey ends up wearing a rather sharp suit and a nice pair of sunglasses.
All of this may seem odd, and it is. It's one of the strangest premises for a mainstream comic book that I've come across in a long time. And yet here's what's even odder about it: It's mostly played straight.
Writer Daniel Way and artist Dalibor Talajić obviously know that this plot is over-the-top and funny, but they let the humor be inherent in the concept, not in the execution. Instead, the story and artwork are deadly serious. The monkey does not relish his quest for revenge—in fact, it's emotionally devastating and the physical and emotional pain he suffers take their toll at every step. You can't help but feel for this poor animal as the ghost of the assassin drives him further and further. But he's got a dirty job to do, and damned if he isn't going to do it.
Hit Monkey: Year of the Monkey is blood-drenched, violent fun, and it packs an emotional wallop. Don't dismiss it because of its off-kilter concept, and don't go in expecting a laugh riot. But do give it a shot.
Reviewed by John R. Platt on January 5, 2011