"The Black Hood #1" Comic Review
Written by James Ferguson
Published by Archie Comics
Written by Duane Swierczynski
Illustrated by Michael Gaydos
2015, 32 Pages, $3.99
Comic released on February 25th, 2015
You hear stories of hero cops on the news, bravely running into gunfire to protect the lives of innocents. What happens after the reporters and the cameras leave? When an officer kills another human being, regardless of the fact that it was for the right reasons, it can leave deep emotional scars. In the case of Philadelphia cop Greg Hettinger, his scars are also front and center after taking a shotgun blast to the face. Now he can't bring himself to face the world and he's fighting an addiction to painkillers, but he still wants to help people. He does so as the Black Hood.
All that sounds like a pretty cool origin story, right? You're not wrong. The Black Hood is the first title from the launch of the Dark Circle imprint from Archie Comics. While I hate to use the term, especially when it comes to super heroes, but this is a very gritty version of a character that's had some pretty goofy origins over the years. It's a pretty realistic take on vigilantism and what's left in the wake of tragedy. Hettinger is put through the ringer. His whole life is shattered in moments and he doesn't know what to do with himself. He literally has to learn how to speak again as the shotgun tore through his face. He could have just given up entirely, but he kept going and could turn into something good.
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Don't get me wrong, writer Duane Swierczynski doesn't portray these heroics as bright and shiny. No one's wearing a cape here. This is a man at the end of his rope that is taking matters into his own hands. Now, this is a trope that we've seen in the past, most notably in the Punisher and in Dark Horse's X, also written by Swierczynski. Unlike those books, you spend a lot of time with the main character before he ever puts on the mask. The vast majority of this issue is spent giving you an idea of the kind of man he is and what's going through his head as he struggles to figure out what's next.
Michael Gaydos' artwork is a perfect fit for this. There's a bleakness to it that really hammers home the rut that Hettinger finds himself in. There's a dramatic moment about halfway through the issue when the doctor removes the bandages, revealing the scars that now cover the left side of Hettinger's face. You can feel his heart sink as he looks in the mirror. His life will never be the same again. He looks a little like Two-Face but far more realistic.
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The book also features an afterword from Swierczynski, introducing the letter column aptly titled "Under the Hood" as well as an essay by Dennis Tafoya called "Corrupt and Contented: Crime in Philadelphia." This gives a bit more color to the comic's setting and how rare a sight a cop like Hettinger might be in the city.
The Black Hood is off to a promising start. If there were ever a true-blue vigilante in our world (and I'm not counting those guys like Phoenix Jones), this would be the blueprint for it. It wouldn't be some billionaire with gadgets and gizmos or a suit of armor. It would be a guy in a mask with two bloody fists, beating up thugs in an alley. He'd have nothing else to lose which makes him pretty friggin' scary.