Writer- Frank Tieri
Artist- Felix Ruiz
Archie Comics’ Dark Circle line of books has in the last year reintroduced many classic, yet forgotten superheroes to readers everywhere. Many of these characters, or versions of, date back to the companies earliest days in the early 1940’s. Over nearly the next 75 years, many of these characters were rebooted in different volumes of their titles, under the Red Circle moniker as recently as a failed attempt in 2008 spearheaded by writer J. Michael Straczynski, while the licensing was held by DC Comics. A few years later, with the rights back in the Archie camp, the line was brought back as a digital first endeavor. This version eventually morphed into Dark Circle, a series of printed books, focusing on adult themed stories. The Fox and Black Hood amongst others were the first titles released, shortly followed by several more, including our subject today, The Hangman.
I have read some of the Dark Circle stuff since the reboots last year, and have been looking forward to seeing what this character was all about. I am not overly familiar with any of the heroes from the line, so continuity in character or story was not a concern. Writer Frank Tieri spends most of the issue focusing on the interaction between two bad guys, a mob enforcer tasked with killing his colleague who has been having an affair with the boss’ wife. They squabble about what is about to happen, threats are made, torture is doled out, but most importantly, the victim mentions The Hangman, a boogeyman to scare wrong doers with. If you have ever read a story like this, you know what is going to happen in the last few pages of this book. That is ok though, because we only get enough of the actual Hangman character that if you even slightly enjoyed this first installment, you will most certainly want to come back for more.
Frank Tieri writes a serviceable script, for what is essentially the opening act for something bigger. That is not a knock either, the dialogue between the two mobsters is raw, and the opening scene involving the enforcer as he tries to do normal family things like find his daughter’s stuffed animal while his victim is in his car trunk alive and squirming was pretty funny. When The Hangman shows up, the story relies more on Felix Ruiz’ art, which through the use of motion lines, conveys a great sense of movement, from the simple shaking of someone frightened, to the full complexity of a fight scene. The pencils are clean, but through inking technique and a wonderfully vivid color job by Kelly Fitzpatrick, the art is attributed a truly gritty feel, without sacrificing detail.
I enjoyed this first issue of The Hangman well enough to certainly check out the next. The concept of keeping our title character a total mystery through the entire book was not new or unique, but executed excellently. Will the true hardcore fans of this character feel the same is a question for a different reader. For now, I’m in for the ride, to see where this story is heading.
3.5 Nooses of 5