I have always been fascinated with the issues which fall between story arcs. They are a way to slow down the tempo for a little while, and to give new readers a chance to catch up. They rarely offer anything beyond backstory for the character, or the world they live in, but they still need to make it worthwhile for both new and old readers to give these sorts of issues a chance. These issues have two basic tasks: to summarize the events which came before them, and to set up the events which will take place after them. They need to achieve this while making it possible for new readers to pick up these issues without being completely lost, and without boring old readers with repetitive exposition or backstory.
The sixth issue of The Black Hood is a perfect example of an issue such as this. It sees the main protagonist, Greg Hettinger, a disfigured police officer with half of his face burned off through an “accident at work” (as it is referred to in this issue), held up in rehab to combat his pill addiction. While here, the reader is introduced to two people with whom Greg has some sort of affiliation; his partner and his wife. We are introduced to his wife through letters which he writes to her while in rehab, letters which reveal a troublesome past between the two of them. Our introduction to Greg’s partner is a lot more heavy-handed, as Greg orders him to perform a task for him on the basis that he is his partner.
The task Greg orders his partner to do for him is to investigate two fellow people that are in his rehab group, because Elisa, another member of his group, thinks someone is trying to kill her. Greg’s desire to protect Elisa from whomever is coming after her is is the main plot point which moves this issue along. It is also how the reader is introduced to the Black Hood persona, as we see Greg donning the mask to make his way through the facility in order to locate information on his fellow rehab members. Writer Duane Swiercynski does a good job throughout this issue with presenting the reader with tidbits like the Black Hood, and Greg’s backstory without making it feel forced or like unnecessary exposition. It all flows quite naturally, and helps the issue feel like an organic introduction to Greg for anyone that hasn’t read previous issues of the series.
As is often the case with gap issues, this story features a different art department than regular issues. While the first arc was drawn by Michael Gaydos and Kelly Fitzpatrick, this issue was drawn by Howard Chaykin with Jesus Aburtov completing the colors. As it is a quiet issue without a lot of action sequences, and mainly dialogue driven narrative, it is hard to say a lot about the art beyond the fact that it does a good job at making the rehab facility seem like a believable location. The scenes of Greg on the beach are probably the best in the issue as the brightly colored scenery creates an interesting contrast with the clearly emotionally troubled Greg standing somberly near the ocean.
Overall, the sixth issue of The Black Hood completes its task rather effectively. It needed to make whatever events took place before this issue tangible for new readers, while simultaneously presenting a story which would make both new and old readers interested in reading future issues of the series. It offers the reader a plot that is easy to comprehend, it executes it well and gives the reader plenty of background for Greg as our main focal point, showing us why he is an interesting protagonist worthy of our attention, while giving us just enough of a twist to be interested in future issues to see where the story might go from here.
In the end, The Black Hood #6 earns a strong 7.5 out of 10.