Dark Circle Comics (an imprint of Archie Comics) is serious about giving their readers a down and dirty, gritty and gravelly crime drama set on the mean streets of Philadelphia. Duane Swierczynski (a Philadelphia native) and Michael Gaydos prove to be the perfect fit for Dark Circle Comics' mission.
What's Happening: Motorcycle cop Gregory Hettinger stumbles upon a violent crime in progress just outside a local elementary school. Fearing a stray shot from one of the perps' guns might strike a kid in a classroom, he draws down on the melee, and gets a shotgun blast to the side of his face in the process. Unbeknownst to him though, he also manages to kill a local vigilante that was involved in the scene and who goes by the name of The Black Hood. After a painful recovery, which leads to a painkiller addiction, Hettinger returns to the streets. He is a changed man now though, and when a fellow officer leaves a black hood on his locker with a note tacked to it stating "Nice Shooting Son!" Hettinger is set down a path that will only further complicate his already confused status as a law enforcement officer.
The Writing: Duane Swierczynski does an excellent job setting up Hettinger's character, motivations, and inner conflicts. He also does a great job developing the supporting cast in the character of Jessie Dupree, Hettinger's speech therapist and his only real companion during his recovery time. The focus here isn't on the action, it's on the characterization and set up, and the book is a much better, and interesting, read because of it.
The Artwork: Michael Gaydos (Alias, True Blood) brings Swierczynski's realistic script to hardboiled life. His attention to detail is wonderful in every panel and in everything from the cityscape to Hettinger's cruiser bike to his character's visages, including Hettinger's scarred face. It is his characters' facial expressions where Gaydos excels though. Every one is sublimely expressive and true.
The Verdict: Archie Comics have really been churning out the hits recently and if the rest of their new line of superhero comics is anything near the quality of The Black Hood #1, then not only will be some of the best reads, they will be some of the most successful as well.