by Duane Swierczynski, Michael Gaydos, Rachel Deering and Kelly Fitzpatrick
You know, ever since Archie Comics announced their new imprint and superhero line Dark Circle Comics, there’s been a lot of buzz behind the titles announced. Titles like The Black Hood and The Shield and of course The Fox, but it’s felt like an excruciating wait since we first heard the news. Thankfully (and finally) that wait is over and Dark Circle Comics jumps right into the fray and like a shotgun blast to the face, at point blank range, you can’t avoid it.
The Black Hood doesn’t gently carry you into the world that writer Duane Swierczynski is crafting, instead it throws you smack into the middle of the mean streets of Philadelphia with police officer Greg Hettinger who seems to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. What’s interesting about The Black Hood, aside from the art which we’ll get to, is just how raw and real it felt. This didn’t feel like your typical superhero origin story at the start, and certainly didn’t by the end of it, and it completely stays away from any incarnation of The Black Hood that you might have seen before going all the way back to the 1940s when he was first created. Hettinger feels like a real person who just happened to respond to the wrong call while on duty, and the aftermath of it is staggering. Without giving too much away, the way Swierczynski focuses on the character after that initial call and the very real and dangerous consequences of some of his actions were all inspiringly different from a lot of the other comic work out there.
Now to follow up on that art comment, let’s start by saying that The Black Hood has some of the most unique looking art that any superhero (a term used very loosely) book has ever had. The almost charcoal-esque effects for some of the shading, mixed in with the inks and colourist Kelly Fitzpatrick’s (who consistently puts out fantastic work) muted and very real colors give this book that extra little edge it needs in a market of this caliber. The character work from Gaydos is stunningly beautiful and at times almost takes on a Michael Lark look and would probably fit right in to anything that Ed Brubaker has ever done. It’s dark and has an edge without being too over the top black. It’s also worth noting the black outline and uneven edges to the story pages, along with the think panel borders which all add to the overall feel and tone of the book. It just gives the story an unfinished look, and elevates what these creators seem to be going for just that much more.
Maybe the shotgun comment earlier was a little over the top, but The Black Hood certainly leaves an impression. It feels like a real story, about a real guy going through issues that anybody in his shoes might have to go through. For those looking for a comparison, you might put it in the same vein as Punisher, particularly the MAX stuff, but somehow more refined and down to Earth, without all that Marvel craziness. Regardless of any potential comparisons, this story makes a hell of a statement for the Dark Circle Comics line and certainly to all other creators out there. The Black Hood is here to stay and if this issue is any indication it’s going to be one crazy ride.