Monday, June 29, 2015

THE BLACK HOOD #4-5: Black Hood Hunts the Connection!

THE BLACK HOOD's first story arc ended last week. This comic, the first title in Archie Comics' new Dark Circle imprint, features Officer Gregory Hettinger. This Pittsburgh cop made a name for himself by shooting the previous Black Hood and then getting shot in the face, effectively ruining his appearance and starting the downward cycle into the world of pain medication dependence and addiction.

In the first two issues of this series, we witnessed him falling into the darkest reaches of his life. He begins stealing prescription drugs from criminals. Not only that, but Hettinger began wearing the Black Hood's torn up masks around the house whenever he got high off of his stolen pain meds.

Eventually, Hettinger came across the mugging and impulsively beat the crap out of the muggers while wearing the mask. The Black Hood was reborn at this moment. Hettinger then kicks off a city-wide assault on the local drug community -- both as a dirty cop who didn't mind swiping the drugs and as the Black Hood who just liked kicking the shit out of criminals.

Of course, his actions have attracted the attention of the local kingpin, an unknown man of power known only as the Connection. The Connection grew tired of Hettinger's shenanigans and managed to very publicly frame the dirty cop by planting tons of stolen drugs in his apartment.

What follows next Hettinger's effort to clear his name and exposed the real connection. Issue #3 ended with Hettinger/Black Hood confronting two of the Connection's top men over the grave of the previous Black Hood.

Hettinger actually does pretty well against Graham and Savitz -- but he would have done much better (issue THE BLACK HOOD #4) if he'd confronted them one-on-one. It helps that Hettinger is usually hopped up on drugs when he goes out as the Black Hood. But he'd been trying to ween himself off them since his arrest. Plus, there's only so much that drugs can do to prop you up.

Hettinger ends up getting exposed during the fight. You have to admit that he's probably the most recognizable cop working for the Pittsburgh Police Department at this point. Hettinger quickly realizs that he has to take out these two guys permanently or else his entire life will be exposed and he ended up being executed by the media or by the Connection -- or both.

Unfortunately, the police arrive and break up the fight. Graham and Savitz are arrested, but Hettinger manages to escape. He manages to pull some strings to get the pair placed in lockdown for six hours. He hopes that this will give him the time needed to identity and expose the Connection. That way, even if he goes down, Pittsburgh's major crime boss will go down with him!

Hettinger can barely stand up by this point. He turns to his only friend for help -- speech therapist Jessie Dupree. She isn't happy to learn about his double-life as the Black Hood, but agrees to help him out. Basically, she drives him around town to track down a few final leads on higher-up stooges for the Connection.

The driver manages to get away, but Hettinger finally stops running and starts piecing together various clues from the past couple issues and figures out the Connection's identity without beating anyone senseless.

Hettinger tracks the Connection down to his base of operations. Just in time, because the Connection had used his... connections to speak to Graham and Savitz and learn the Black Hood's secret identity. This leads to a final confrontation that was actually pretty cool -- both in how Hettinger took care of the Connection, but also how he successfully cleared himself of wrong-doing over the drug-charges, as well as cleared himself of suspicion of being the Black Hood!

The final pages of THE BLACK HOOD #5 wrapped up some loose ends and finally got him addressing his addiction. He has a promising future ahead of him, both serving as a cop in good standing again. But also possible romance with the only other person who knows his biggest secret, Jessie Dupree.

That said, I can't help thinking that the Black Hood will return with new drug-involved adventures in the future -- most likely in October 2015 when the series returns!

I have really enjoyed THE BLACK HOOD. It is much darker and more violent than most of the comic book that I am used to reading. But it's also different. Hettinger's trauma at the beginning of this storyline, his descent into pain med addiction, and his reasons for becoming the Black Hood... It makes a lot of sense to me. Not to mention, his need to continue as the Black Hood in order to clear his name.

I'm really look forward to where this series is heading. Will be stay clean? Will Dupree continue to stand by him once it's clear that the Black Hood has return? I can't wait to find out these answers!

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

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