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Review: Black Hood #8

BlackHood8hacksvar-673x1024Dark Circle‘s Black Hood #8 continues to be one of the darkest superhero stories on the stands, and it’s barely in that drama as it’s mostly a gritty cop drama with Greg Hettinger aka the Black Hood continuing to battle his addiction to painkillers and vigilante justice while getting used to police work. Writer Duane Swierczynski uses just enough internal monologue to show how much pain he’s going through as his strategy to take out the Crusaders, a mysterious cult-like group preying on the homeless people of Philadelphia, fails miserably.

Guest artist Robert Hack, who is known for his retro meets horrifying art on Sabrina, makes the opening fight sequence between him and the Crusaders more bone breaking than bone aching. He uses multiple close-ups of Greg’s scarred face to remind readers about his injury and accidental gunning down of an innocent civilian in the first issue, and for every hit that he lands on the Crusaders, they give him a few blows to remember. Colorist Kelly Fitzpatrick uses scarlet backgrounds to draw attention to the brutal punishment that he takes in contrast with the usual dusky palette that she uses for Philadelphia at night. The use of shadows and claustrophobic angles extends to the Crusaders’ camp where they’re holding and “reeducating” homeless kids. Hack and Fitzpatrick truly create a kind of nightmare landscape that goes beyond the usual dirt and pavement of Philadelphia during the day.

Black Hood #8 reestablishes that Greg Hettinger is not the best police detective, not the best vigilante, and definitely not the person. He doesn’t have a firm no guns, no killing that traditional superheroes like Spider-Man and Batman do, and his moral code fluctuates on the situation. When Greg thinks he can take out the bat-wielding punk with his bare hands, he doesn’t use his gun. When said punk is a little too much to handle, he pulls out his gun and still gets it knocked out of his hands. He’s not the best strategist, and Swierczynski uses his narration to add a little dark humor in response to his ass kicking like comparing his plan to playing checkers with an angry toddler.

Greg is always flying by the seat of the pants, and this is what makes Black Hood such a tense read as his life, sobriety, and secret identity hang by the narrowest of threads. The scenes where he chats with and lies to his friend Jessie, who has been keeping him accountable in regards to his addiction and vigilante activities, has a similar kind of pathetic feel that Walter White’s conversations with his wife had in the early seasons of Breaking Bad. Even though Jesse and his cheesesteak loving partner are there for them, Greg shuts them out in his never ending quest for justice even though they both know he’s up to something because of the prominent bruises on his arm and face clearly shown in Hack’s art.

But despite all of Greg’s ethical and physical weak, the “Lonely Crusade” arc is shaping up to be a more traditional superhero story than the first arc of Black Hood, which had Greg taking down drug dealers so he could use their painkillers on himself. In Black Hood #8, he’s trying to get information and evidence on the Crusaders because it’s the right thing to do. The story is a bit of a riff on Daredevil with a Philadelphia flavor from Swierczynski and Hack because Greg must balance being a servant of the law as police officer and his police activities just like Matt Murdock is a lawyer by day and vigilante by night.

However, the sheer lived-in nature of Robert Hack’s artwork and its engaging nature combined with Kelly Fitzpatrick’s colors, and Duane Swierczynski’s hardboiled crime meets salt of the earth voice for Greg Hettinger sets Black Hood #8 apart from the other superhero books currently on the stands. Add Greg’s chronic inability to catch a break, and it’s a riveting read even if turns into yet another hero versus villain showdown albeit with a dose of reality because of Philadelphia’s real problem with homelessness and a highly unconventional lead character.

Story: Duane Swierczynski Art: Robert Hack Colors: Kelly Fitzpatrick
Story: 7.7 Art: 8.2 Overall: 8 Recommendation: Buy

Archie/Dark Circle Comics provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review