"The Black Hood #9" Comic Review
Written by James Ferguson
Published by Dark Circle Comics
Written by Duane Swierczynski
Illustrated by Greg Scott
Colored by Kelly Fitzpatrick
2016, 36 Pages, $3.99
Comic released on February 17th, 2016
Life has been tough for officer Greg Hettinger. He had half his face blasted off, got addicted to pills, and started traipsing around Philadelphia as the masked vigilante, The Black Hood. His face is still messed up, but he's kicked the pills. He can't, however, beat the addiction he has to wearing a mask and punching criminals in the face. He's been tracking down a new group in town called The Crusaders that have been abducting homeless people. Greg just found their lair and things are about to get pretty bloody.
Although the main story is so damn compelling, what steals the show in this issue of The Black Hood is the history of the witness that leads Greg to the Crusaders. Writer Duane Swierczynski tells us about John “Jack” Mortimer's life, dating back to his days as a child in the 1950s. We get to know this man as well as his rise and fall in the area. This makes his circumstances all the more heartbreaking when you find out what ultimately happens to him. What could have turned this bright-eyed, smart kid into a raving hobo?
Swierczynski has a way with words, especially when it comes to descriptions. I don't want to spoil what happens, however there is one particular line that hits like a ton of bricks. It really hammers home just how brutal this event was in Jack's life. Coupled with this is Greg Scott's artwork, bringing this whole chaotic spiral to life. Two panels ahead of that line I mentioned is an image that made me wince when I first saw it. It's painful just to look at it. Kelly Fitzpatrick's colors bring this whole thing together, especially the blood. It almost looks like it was thrown on the page itself instead of being included within the panel.
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These snippets of Jack's life are interspersed with Greg's current investigation. There's a bit of a mirror effect going on here, where the events in Jack's past are running parallel to those in Greg's present. This continues through the end of the issue where the two stories intersect.
Of course, Jack isn't the title character of the book. We're here to see what Greg is up to as The Black Hood. In case you needed a reminder, he's still new to the super hero racket and he's not particularly good at it. When he finds the Crusader's hideout, he goes against his better judgment and decides to intervene. Suffice it to say, Fitzpatrick's bloody colors pop here too.
This is Scott's first full issue as interior artist on The Black Hood and he's slid seamlessly into this world. His style matches the gritty look and feel of previous artist Michael Gaydos. There are also some nice effects, like the “Kirby dots” that appear in some of the darker scenes that give the book the tone of an old pulp comic.
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There's a drive that pushes Greg to continue even in the face of such adversity. This is what makes a hero. He has no super powers or even a fancy costume. Greg is a normal guy wearing a beat-up black hood who goes out on the streets of Philadelphia to stop criminals. As with any other normal guy, there's a good chance that he's going to get his ass kicked. Unfortunately, he doesn't have the pills to make him feel better anymore, so every single hit he takes is that much more painful.
I realize I haven't said anything about the Crusaders, and that's a mistake. They're a chilling group of villains, as you could actually see this happening today. Just as Greg is what it might be like if a regular guy put on a mask and starting fighting crime, the Crusaders are what might happen if a handful of people decided to clean up their streets by kidnapping and relocating the undesirables. Not to get political, but at the time of this writing, there is literally a man running for President that has suggested putting up a wall along the country's border with Mexico, so this isn't that far off from reality. As with most villains, these folks think they're right. They believe their actions are pure and are making their country a better place.
The Black Hood has not missed a beat. It's the most realistic portrayal of super heroics, which makes it all the more brutal. You get the feeling that there are no happy endings here. Sure, Greg has managed to wean himself off the pills, but that doesn't mean his life is back to normal. He's still a broken man and he's far from the only one in this book.
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