Editor's Note: Dark Reign: The Hood #1 arrives in stores Thursday, May 28.
In 2002, Brian K. Vaughan wrote an enjoyable mini-series introducing The Hood, a low-level crook who happened upon a cloak that gave him super-powers, prompting him to embark on a career of supervillainy. It was an interesting look at the seedy underbelly of the Marvel universe, and Vaughan made the character interesting, hinting that he might not be all bad and giving him some human motivation. Since then, other writers have given him a significant upgrade in evil, having him form an alliance of supervillains and become a member of an elite group of baddies that basically rule the world from the shadows. That's quite a departure from the character's humble beginnings, and with this new miniseries, writer Jeff Parker steps in to try to bring some humanity back into the picture.
He's not completely successful (mostly in the area of dialogue, which often comes off as forced when trying to make villains sound cool and nasty), but it's obvious that he's trying to do something interesting. While the Hood might come off as a heartless manipulator and murderer, we see that he agonizes about the killing he does, struggles against the demonic influence of his cloak, and makes an attempt (albeit a pretty lame one, considering his criminal riches and fling with villainess Madame Masque) to spend time with his wife and daughter. He actually seems like the character that Vaughan created: in over his head in a high-stakes game.
Parker is helped quite a bit by artist Kyle Hotz, who also drew the original mini-series. Hotz has an interesting, somewhat cartoony, exaggerated style, lending the evil doings here an outsized feel. Pages are full of gnarled tree branches, curling smoke, and wrinkled fabric (which looks pretty neat on the Hood's cloak); it's the ideal atmosphere for a comic about bad dudes and their bad deeds. Some of the faces end up looking a bit strange, kind of elongated and sporting huge lips, but that's just Hotz's style, I guess.
Parker does set up some interesting developments here, like a possible mutiny among the supervillains, and a mysterious person tracking the Hood with murderous intent. It should be interesting to watch it play out, but hopefully a reason for the series' existence will come into focus, since right now, it seems to be an excuse for Marvel to release another comic with the "Dark Reign" banner plastered on the cover. Parker is using the opportunity to try to give the character some dimension, but hopefully it won't be a pointless exercise.
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