Writer: Duane Swierczynski
Artist: Michael Gaydos
Colorist: Kelly Fitzpatrick
If your point of reference for Dark Circle Comics is The Fox: Freak Magnet which Dean Haspiel did with Mark Waid, J.M. DeMatteis and Mike Cavallaro, The Black Hood is liable to shock you. There were warnings made that this is a dark comic and you should heed them. This is NOT a children’s comic.
The nice folks at Archie slid us an advance review copy of The Black Hood #1 and it’s an impressive piece of work. While the Black Hood character is traditionally associated with superheroes, this take, at least in the first chapter, is the vigilante through the lens of a crime novel. Which only makes sense, as there’s a crime novelist writing it (Swierczynski) and a crime novelist editing it (Alex Segura).
The story concerns a policeman shot in the line of duty and his descent into a pit of madness that he sees coming, but can’t pull out of. The city of Philadelphia is character in this comic and its seedy side is the one shown, complete with an essay on the history of police corruption in Philly in the back of the comic. This take on Philly colors the lens of the reader and shades our protagonist’s less than rosy outlook as he acts as our narrator. The initial pages show a theme of redemption just out of reach, and redemption will probably be focus of the greater work.
It’s unusual when you want to take time to point out the atmosphere and world building in a crime comic. That’s usually something discussed more in science fiction and horror. The Black Hood has a sense of place and a slightly claustrophobic atmosphere to it. That the place exists in the real world is perhaps secondary, but it reminds me a bit of how big a part of The Wire Baltimore was.
If you were to ask me to give a point of reference for this comic, it wouldn’t be another comic. It would be The Wire. The Wire, without the sense of humor and creative swearing, with vigilantism as the arc. The Wire, while the greater story was more often of heartbreak and tragedy, was frequently hilarious. The Black Hood plays it grim.
This is a good creative pairing all the way around. Gaydos brings a bit of grit to the art, well suited to the urban blight of the setting. Fitzpatrick adds a muted color palate, which fits the gloomy mood and outlook. The look of this is almost the polar opposite of a bright and shiny comic about a hero in a bright suit, like The Fox. That also might be the point.
Highly recommended for fans of crime comics and darker subject matter. Think 100 Bullets, Criminal or Stray Bullets with a vigilante in the mix and you’re going to be in the general ballpark.
I must admit, if the Dark Circle imprint is going to run the gamut from The Fox to The Black Hood, I’m awfully curious to get a look at The Shield and how these titles might fit together.
Todd Allen wears a lot of hats. At various times he’s been (alphabetically), a bouncer, college professor, humor columnist, Internet producer and an NBA/WNBA Beat Writer, among other things. He’s the author of Economics of Digital Comics. You should probably read it.