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Lore is a fascinating aspect of any culture. Every country has a tale which has been told through generations about a mythical being who will punish them if they misbehave, or a danger which will come for them if they let their guard down. The most common aspects in any tale of lore are that it they quite generalizable. They will often tell stories about a single person or creature, and give them a single motivation, but the consequences of these motivations will feel quite relatable. This simplistic approach allows a story to transcend time and place.
Film and television have loved stories like this for a long time. Even if you just look at the rise of the slasher genre in the 1970’s, Michael Myers had a single motivation and a simplistic backstory in Halloween. It wasn’t advanced or overly complex, which made the appeal quite broad. In comics, the element of myth and urban legend exists in several of the most popular titles. Batman for example, is built upon a specific structure of billionaire Bruce Wayne, but it’s the masked crusader’s unwavering desire to cure Gotham of crime that makes it so relatable.
The Hangman tries to use the latter structure of Batman’s lore, that same unwavering desire to cure a city of crime, to tell a story which seems to be far more spiritual. In this issue we meet Michael Minetta, a hitman for the mob, willing to do just about anything for a paycheque. He has a loving wife, and an adoring daughter, neither of which seems to know what he does for a living. As the story progresses, Michael is at the docks with a man he has captured. He is going to kill this man for having sex with a woman who happened to be married to one of the mob’s major players. Right before he completes his task, his victim promises that The Hangman is coming for him, a promise Michael laughs off as urban myth.
As Michael is getting into his car after killing the man, our hero appears. The similarities between the Hangman and other masked crusaders like Batman, Daredevil and Black Bat are instantly apparent. They all have the same sort of mask which covers the upper half of their face, Black Bat and Batman share the cape, and Black Bat shares his willingness to kill. The scowling brutality in his fighting style is also reminiscent of all of the above. It’s during these fight scenes that the art comes most to life. The fast paced action suits Felix Ruiz‘ art style perfectly, and the colours by Kelly Fitzpatrick add additional passion to the scenes.
The writing by Frank Tieri is, for the most, part quite straightforward. None of the events which take place are all that unexpected, with the exception of what happens on the final page. The final page adds a second layer to the series which feels quite supernatural, even spiritual, and without spoiling exactly what happens, adds a lot of lore to the character of The Hangman. It gives him a sort of longevity that simultaneously explains what his motivations are and what might happen in future issues of this series.
Overall, The Hangman #1 is a strong debut for the series. It has fantastic art by Felix Ruiz, which feels gritty and almost realistic. The colours and lettering by Kelly Fitzpatrick and Rachel Deering respectively, adds life to the world our characters live in. The writing by Frank Tieri is quite by-the-numbers for most of the issue, which means that there are elements that feel cliche and uninspired, but the characterisation is quite fleshed out and they all feel rather believable. On top of that, an unexpected ending offers a lot of potential for the future of this series, and could see The Hangman become a interesting story of supernatural horror crimefighting able add another story of lore to the world.
In the end, The Hangman #1 scores a promising 7 out of 10.