Published on January 6th, 2016 | by Maggie


The Best Comics You Aren’t Reading: The Black Hood

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It was the first F-bomb in Archie Comics. It was one of the best arcs I’ve experienced all year. It’s The Black Hood by Duane Swierczynski.

Officer Greg Hettinger’s life is forever changed after he takes a bullet to the face. He wakes up in a hospital to learn that he’s killed a vigilante known as the Black Hood. Although he becomes a local hero, it comes at the cost of half his face, an addiction to painkillers, and a weekly session with a speech therapist.

Unable to obtain painkillers, Greg resorts to desperate measures to get a fix. He begins to steal drugs from dealers as a crooked cop by day and a vigilante by night, igniting a war between the police and the underworld. With the police and underworld on his heels, Greg must lead a life of lies, secrets, and violence to stay alive.

Swierczynski makes Greg Hettinger a challenging protagonist. He’s a cop and a junkie whose vigilantism is focused more on personal profit than it is public safety. Almost everything Hettinger does throughout the comic is arguably 100% selfish. There’s no reason to sympathize for this man.

And yet we do.

It’s not so much who Greg is, but who Greg could be. It’s the potential for this character to learn and grow that keeps us turning the page. The pacing, the urgency, the frequent twists and turns we face in Hood have us praying for a clean break.

Greg’s reflections about his childhood sandwiched between the wall-to-wall action of the present day work to add weight to his character. The essays featured in each issue add to the believability of Swierczynski’s Philadelphia. Hood is rooted, gritty, and unlike any other Archie comic on the shelves.

Although Dark Circle’s Black Hood is technically the revival of a character with roots in the DCU, Hood is a standalone work of art that can be read by fans and newcomers alike. The ties to the former Black Hood are mentioned, but blink and you might miss it.

Michael Gaydos’ artwork is perfect for Swierczynski’s story and voice. I compared the art style to a crumpled dollar bill. Corrupt, old, and full of secrets. There isn’t a clean surface in the entire series; everything is a bit dirty or dingy, quietly establishing the world as seen by Greg.

I’m a huge fan of Hettinger’s character design. He’s something between Harrison Ford and Tom Hardy, which characterized him a bit more. Some of the facial expressions seen on government officials and other police officers oozed with suspicion and corruption, demonstrating Gaydos’ ability to characterize people through their face and body language.

The moral tug-of-war that comes with supporting Greg’s character makes the story hard to put down. Compared to the world he lives in, it’s almost as if Greg is a saint. Hard to believe until you meet everyone around him. He’s not the kind of vigilante or hero we were hoping for, nor is he the textbook anti-hero. He’s something in between and all the more fascinating because of it.

The Black Hood, Vol. 1: The Bullet’s Kiss will be available January 12, 2016.

Title: The Black Hood
Publisher: Dark Circle
Writer: Duane Swierczynski
Artist: Michael Gaydos

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