The Black Hood Vol. 1 – The Bullet’s Kiss Review
Dark Circle Comics’ The Black Hood is the latest character to get the gritty reboot treatment, going from the spandex-clad goofball of the 1940s comics to a drug-addicted, disfigured ex-cop on the brink of a psychotic break. This is a very dark book, filled with graphic violence and heavy drug use (our “hero” eats painkillers like candy and even shoots heroin when his bag of Percocet runs out). The Black Hood Volume 1: The Bullet’s Kiss is certainly an original take on the character and worth a read, just don’t buy it for your kid.
Officer Greg Hettinger is a regular cop in Philadelphia, who tries to stop some gang violence from breaking out in a schoolyard and ends up taking a shotgun blast to the face for his trouble. (We’re asked to suspend disbelief here a bit as Hettinger a) has no partner with him and b) decides not to wait for backup.) Officer Hettinger is hailed as a hero in the city, shaking hands with the mayor and smiling for the TV cameras. But when the spotlight fades, he’s left with a hideously scarred face, nightmarishly bad pain, and the knowledge that he took the life of a vigilante who may have just been trying to do some good on the streets. (Side note: Hettinger kills a man named Kip Burland, the name of one of the original Black Hoods.)
Overcome with grief, depression and daily agony from his injuries, Hettinger starts slowly regressing. He begins speech therapy with a woman named Julie, but soon starts missing his sessions for weeks at a time. By the time she stops by to check on him, Greg is knee-deep in a painkiller addiction, busting local perps and stealing drugs to keep the worst of the pain at bay. When his bag of percs runs out, he resorts to shooting heroin. The local drug lords wonder where all their drugs are going, and start putting two and two together. It isn’t long before Hettinger’s house is raided and a bag of drugs are found in his home.
But by this point, Hettinger has started to kick his habit and returned to active police duty. He wonders who would want to frame him, and puts on the black hood to work his way through the ranks of the underworld to find the man who dragged his name through the mud. He beats down every criminal he can get his hands on, pummeling them into the pavement before screaming his catchphrase, “Who is above you?!” Soon enough he has a name, “The Connection”. Now he has a purpose – to take down the man who soiled his reputation and get the drugs off the streets of his hometown.
Written by crime novelist Duane Swierczynski (Iron Fist), The Black Hood Volume 1: The Bullet’s Kiss is a gritty noir featuring a dark anti-hero and a unique perspective on the opioid addiction crisis that is sweeping the country. Greg Hettinger doesn’t talk much– mostly due to the fact that his face is mostly destroyed– and so we get an introspective look at his innermost thoughts when he’s at his darkest moments. Watching him pull himself out of that dark hole with the help of others around him is the highlight of this book.
The artwork for the first five issues is done by Michael Gaydos (Jessica Jones), and fits the material perfectly. His style is realistic and gritty, setting the tone for the dark tale to come. The final issue in the collection, while I appreciate its inclusion, features a completely different art style that was far too cartoonish for my liking. It’s such a weird jump between issue 5 and issue 6 that it probably would have been better to include issue 6 in the next trade paperback.
If you’re looking for an interesting origin story, The Black Hood Volume 1: The Bullet’s Kiss definitely fits the bill. I’m interested to see where the story goes after Greg’s stint on the West Coast in issue 6.