"The Black Hood #6" Comic Review
Written by James Ferguson
Published by Dark Circle Comics
Written by Duane Swierczynski
Illustrated by Howard Chaykin
2015, 36 Pages, $3.99
Comic released on October 28th, 2015
Greg Hettinger has been through Hell. His face is scarred from a shotgun blast; he's addicted to pain killers; and he's running around wearing a mask, beating up criminals. He manages to get through some pretty crazy shit in Philadelphia and decides to try and clean up his act by going through rehab in Southern California. Trouble has a way of finding Greg though, even on the sunny beaches of this clinic.
What's immediately apparent about this issue is the drastic change in artwork. Regular series artist Michael Gaydos took a breather this month and Howard Chaykin jumped in. The style is very different, although very fitting given the setting. When I first opened the book I felt like I had to squint, as if I was looking at the sun. It's an abrupt departure from the dark tones seen in Gaydos' work. Again, it's not bad.
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Although the comic is set in sunny California, there's a lonely darkness brewing in Greg that comes through from the first panel. The other folks in the rehab clinic have their own secrets. This is where that trouble comes in. A fellow patient thinks there's a target on her head and another member of the group is getting ready to pull the trigger. She sees a kindness in Greg and looks to him for help.
This is where writer Duane Swierczynski shines and really knocks this story out of the park. Greg can't help himself but dive in headfirst to save this damsel in distress, regardless of the potential consequences. He brought his mask with him and puts it on while he's alone in his room or when he needs to go out to look for clues. It's like a baby blanket, calming him in ways that drugs cannot. Greg gets so wrapped up in this mystery that he can't see the forest for the trees. The final pages of this issue are perfect noir.
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There's a lesson to be learned here about how you can't judge a book by its cover. The other patients are quick to put labels on Greg based on his appearance. You see a quiet guy that bears a passing resemblance to Two-Face and you think he's a drug dealer or something. He had to be mixed up with trouble if he ended up like that, right? The same preconceived notions apply to the other patients. Greg sizes them up during their meetings, but even a cop's instincts can be wrong about these things.
The Black Hood continues to deliver. Even moving the main character from the dark alleys of Philadelphia to the sunny beaches of California does not lose a fraction of the cool noir action that has filled every issue to date. Greg is starting to regain control of his life, but that doesn't mean the body count is going to slow down any time soon. Moving forward, it will be interesting to see how he handles the criminals in Philly without the aid of pain killers.