Review by Ian Keogh
The Black Hood is back in Phildelphia, back from rehab, and back on the police force. The disenfranchised are going missing, and the word on the street is that someone’s going around in a white van gathering them up. Greg Hettinger is taking his drug addiction one day at a time, but the compulsion to pull on that black hood and go where the police can’t is becoming too strong, something he can’t resist.
At DC in the 1980s The Question appearing on covers with his distinctive mask vaguely suggested a superhero series, but it was a crime drama with hefty dose of social relevance on the side, and Duane Swierczynski takes a similar route with The Black Hood. These are crime dramas, but sifted with the like of Swierczynski giving the background to how a homeless person who plays a part ended up that way. It’s good characterisation, but also nags at the conscience. What he also does very well, both here and in The Bullet’s Kiss previously, is characterise the Black Hood as extremely fallible. His intentions are good, and he has the police training, but he’s often in over his head, and that takes its toll. There’s a surprise as to just what’s happening to the disappeared, rooted in a perverse judgemental attitude about who contributes to society, and in Greg’s life tragedy is never too far away.
How many artists should it take to illustrate a five chapter graphic novel? Four in this case. Michael Gaydos returns for one final sequence setting the scene, and Greg Scott (sample art) manages a slight variation on that gritty style, but drops the black page borders. Separating them is an episode by the less accomplished Robert Hack, and the final episode is by the always good Rick Burchett, on hand to draw a story of the previous Black Hood, as he once did for DC. Swierczynski alters the tone to present something closer to that style, more a puzzle than a drama, and it seems to be a change of pace in what’s a very downbeat collection. At the end, however, Swierczynski rips that comfort away from us, while recontextualising events opening The Bullet’s Kiss. Expect some follow-up in The Nobody Murders.
The Black Hood continues to be a gritty, depressing crime series with a complex and conflicted figure at its heart, and that makes for good reading.