Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Archie's Dark Circle Begins in THE BLACK HOOD #1

I finally sat down and read my copy of THE BLACK HOOD #1, the first title in Archie Comics' new Dark Circle line of comic books. These titles are meant to be darker, more complicated versions of the publisher's previous efforts at superheroes. THE BLACK HOOD #1 features the origin story of the third man to assume the Black Hood identity. Based on my first impressions, this promises to be a very good series.

But first...

This blog entry contains spoilers. If you don't want to know what happens in THE BLACK HOOD #1, then stop reading now. You have been warned.

Back to the show...

When I first read this title's description, I understood that Officer Gregory Hettinger was a crooked cop who got shot in the face and is now addicted to pain killers. Not quite. It turns out that he was an apparently decent cop who got shot in the face at a crime scene. He woke with horrific scars across his face and extremely impaired speech. He wallowed in depression, mourning his once-handsome appearance. He struggled with pain from his facial injuries and gradually found himself less responsive to his prescribed pain meds. Which eventually led to him stealing stronger pain meds from criminals on the streets.

So, more sympathetic than originally thought.

Oh yeah, he got shot in the face while approaching a fight between the second Black Hood (last seen here and here). And he managed to shoot the second Black Hood right before he collapsed from his injuries. That's right. This Black Hood killed the previous Black Hood on the third page.

Many of those within the Philadelphia Police Department were excited that he took out the Black Hood. Others thought it was terrible. Hettinger ended up with the Black Hood's torn up mark -- and began wearing it around the house while getting high off of his stolen pain meds.

There was one character who didn't seem filled with pity or disgust by Hettinger's scarred appearance. Her name is Jessie Dupree. She is a speech therapist who stepped up to help him regain his speech. She appears to be the one person who genuinely appears proud of the injured cop and concerned for his recovery. Others might give up on him once it gradually becomes clear that he is walking towards the edge -- but not Jessie. She's not going to give up on him.

He begins to skip their speech therapy appointments in order to bask in his addiction, which leads Jessie to seek him out at his home. Fearful that she would find himself with his mask and amidst his pain pills, Hettinger sneaks out of a window -- and comes across a mugging. "What are you -- a cop or a junkie?," Hettinger asks himself before pulling on the black mask.

The first issue ends with him deciding to be something new. He assumes the identity that he snuffed out at the beginning of this comic book. Hettinger becomes the Black Hood.

Like I wrote above, I really liked this story a lot. The story is tough and the artwork is beautifully rendered. I like the hazy lines around each panel. I assume that this is to symbolize his growing addiction.

It's easy to dismiss Gregory Hettinger on paper as a crooked cop with an addiction to pain meds, but the story does a good job of believably explaining how he found himself in that very dark place.

I'm really looking forward to seeing where they take this new series.

"The Bullet's Kiss" is written by Duane Swierczynski, penciled/inked by Michael Gaydos, lettered by Rachel Deering, and colored by Kelly Fitzpatrick.

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