Written by: Duane Swierczynski
Art by: Michael Gaydos
Dark Circle Comics is off to a great start in establishing itself as a mature and exciting publisher of hero fare far removed from its Archie parents. The Black Hood #1 by Duane Swierczynski and Michael Gaydos hits the ground running with the first person account of Philadelphia patrolman Greg Hettinger and his descent into drug abuse and ascent into vigilantism. It’s a brutally realistic look at a man who’s deconstructed before our eyes and reborn into the hero (or is it anti-hero?) he’s been made out to be. It’s a refreshing character study that sizzles like a 1970’s action thriller.
The character may have been around since 1940, but Dark Circle is introducing Hood to a whole new audience more cynical and vigilante-weary than ever before. What it has going for it is Swierczynski’s cool and tempered narrative. Even after Hettinger’s hospitalization for breaking up a fight where he was shot and left disfigured with slurred speech, he doesn’t go off the rails in a melodramatic way. Instead, it’s more gradual and realistic. It’s a slow spiral of despair trying to come back from shooting and killing the original Black Hood, left with nothing but facial scars, a throbbing pain that only an increasing amount of Percocet can soothe and a souvenir in an actual black hood.
The issue serves as a fairly fast-paced origin story that hums along nicely under Swierczynski’s capable pulp senses and enhanced with Gaydos’ realistically dreary landscapes where Philadelphia mirrors the decay within Hettinger. Every necessary detail is there from the grain in the wood paneling to the ridges that mark our hero’s face, Gaydos leaves an indelible mark on the book that gives each scene depth and weight, much of it from despair and depression that lingers after you put the book down.
Dark Circle Comics’ coming out party is like a shotgun blast to the face. One that leaves a mark and puts the industry on notice that they’re not here to play nice. The Black Hood #1 represents a serious endeavor to bring great compelling stories to the market from exciting creators and it has with this first salvo in spades.