My enthusiasm for the new Black Hood from Dark Circle Comics, was less than average for a character I like. To be honest, I was sure I wouldn’t like it at all, and for no better reason than I was such a huge fan of the Mark Wheatley/Rick Burchett version, back when these characters were part of the Impact line. Every attempt by DC to do something with this character after that, while they still had the license, failed miserably, so I was primed for a sub-par continuation. I should have taken heart knowing that the character was back home at an in-print of Archie Comics, but I still was sure I wouldn’t like it. I had also read the promotional blurbs about the new series from Dark Circle Comics, and was less than interested. Again, no matter how hard I might try, the ghost of the old Impact series was still haunting my thoughts.
So after issue two came out, I rustled up a copy of issue one and read both of them, knowing full well that I was going to slam this new incarnation.
Well, I was wrong.
To say that I was surprised is putting it mildly. I didn’t just find the story okay, but it was really good. So let’s break down what it is about this new version by writer Duane Swieczynski, and artist Michael Gaydos that has won me over.
They killed the Black Hood! Well, they killed the last incarnation from the Red Circle Comics in the first issue. In the first couple of pages the new main character, a cop called Greg Hettinger, accidentally shoots the old Black Hood during a shootout. This same shootout leaves Hettinger scared, and in constant pain, a pain that gets him hooked on painkillers, which then leads to other drugs. I really liked this tip of the hat to the older stories, and acknowledging that this character already has a past. It was not something I expected, and it caught me off guard. Most re-launches just flush any previous history, destroying all that great potential story material, but they didn’t do that here, which in my opinion is really smart.
This book is also gritty–gritty in a good way. Take Hettinger, the main character, he’s an @$$#*%&. Sure, he’s strung out on drugs, and technically you could say it’s the drugs making him do it, but he’s pretty uncaring in his pursuit of them. He doesn’t gun down thugs because of some twisted moral code; he does it for a fix. What’s even better is the fact that he seems to enjoy doing it, which is what drew me in. It would have been so easy to fall back into the typical Punisher-style vigilante, but in the first two issues they have shown us that this will not be your ordinary anti-hero type story.
The art of Michael Gaydos is dark, which fits the dark mood of the book. It fits in that respect, and it’s really well done. His panel layout is not overpowering, or vanilla, it’s just captures the mood, and flows with it. I will say that I think that Gaydos’ style would be better suited for a horror book than for a crime noir book, but at the same time, a real clean artists wouldn’t fit. I would love to see Gaydos do work on a Tomb of Dracula reboot. His style would be perfect for that.
I breezed through these books fast, so fast, that I had to go back and actually count the pages to make sure it was a standard page count, which it was. There is no over use of splash pages, or extra big panels either. This is probably one of the best ways to gauge how good a book is for you. If you finish a it, and it seems like you just picked it up, then the creators did their job right.
So, if you are a fan of gritty comics that are slightly different from what you normally find, especially those that are part of a wider superhero universe, this book is going to be for you. It remains to be seen if the new Black Hood, is going to interact with the other spandex crowd from this universe, but even if he doesn’t, you will enjoy this book if you enjoy a gritty crime story.