When Philadelphia police officer Greg Hettinger stepped into the middle of a gunfight, hot lead shredded his face — and he pulled the trigger, blind. Now Greg is waking up in a world where he’s a killer, hopelessly scarred and hooked on painkillers. What does a man do when he can no longer face the world, yet still wants to do good? He puts on a hood…

This character has apparently been around for decades but I’ve never read any previous incarnations of this title before. I picked this issue up for one reason and one reason only: Duane Swierczynski. He has been the writer of Dark Horse’s series X, which I have been enjoying immensely, and he is the writer of this title. It’s another gritty urban vigilante series, so I am very curious to see how he differentiates the two.

As the promo says, this issue introduces us to Greg, a beat cop in Philadelphia. The story is told from his POV, narrated by him via captions. So right off the bat it is different from X, in that we are getting insight to his private thoughts. He was born and raised in this city, and despite the surge in crime and poverty over the decades it is clear that he still loves, and can’t imagine living anywhere else. That’s why he become a police officer, he genuinely wants to protect and serve his community. The story begins when he response to a call about 4 men with guns, one wearing a mask, on a street corner that’s close to an Elementary school. When he arrives on the scene, one of them, armed with a shotgun, shoots Greg in the face. As Greg is falling to the ground he lets off a shot with his gun, killing the man in the mask. When Greg regains consciousness in the hospital, he is greeted by his Captain, who reveals to Greg that the man Greg killed was a local vigilante known as The Black Hood, whom the police had been trying to capture for years. Greg is hailed by the city as a hero.

But all is not well, as the shotgun blast to his face has left him horribly disfigured. One side of his face is covered with burn wounds and scars, making him look like the Batman villain, Two-Face. Greg throws up when he first sees his new face in a mirror. His mouth is also damaged, and he’s having trouble speaking. He is assigned a speech therapist, a woman named Jessie, who works with him to help him regain his ability to speak. Over the course of most of the rest of the issue, Swierczynski effectively shows us the inner turmoil that Greg deals with has, despite is new heroic status, he feels shunned by the community and by his fellow cops. This is not only because of the way he looks now, and people are disgusted to view him, but also there as a significant number of police who appreciated the Black Hood’s work in fighting crime, and actually viewed him as an ally. Those police now resent Greg for eliminating him. As Greg becomes more emotionally withdrawn, he also starts to become addicted to the painkillers he was prescribed to deal with his injuries. One night, impulsively, Greg takes to the streets, wearing the Black Hood’s old mask…

A subtle but dramatic cliffhanger ends this issue on a high note. Yes, it’s pretty much an introduction story, familiarizing us with the main character, but it is very well-told. I find myself eagerly anticipating what happens next. Michael Gaydos is the artist, and he captures the gritty modern noir feel of the story. Together this creative team is off to a great start. Chacebook rating: FOUR STARS


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