The Lonely Crusade represents the second story arc of the gritty reimagining of The Black Hood, collecting issues #7-11. It picks up with recovering drug addict Greg Hettinger returning to Philadelphia, from a rehab program (and a murder) in California. The pitch to editor Alex Segura began with “It starts with this gang called The Crusaders…”
People have been going missing in the slums of Philly, including some patients of Hettinger’s girlfriend, Jessie. As he returns to duty as a cop, he spends he days investigating the disappearances with his partner. However, they aren’t able to uncover very much information beyond rumors of a mysterious gang and a white van. Torn between his need to help Jessie, and his word to her to give up the Hood, he inevitably comes to the conclusion that the only way to accomplish the first is to give in to the second.
As he returns to the shadows, and once again dawns the Hood, he finds his skills and reactions slowed, weakened by the continuing mental and physical symptoms of his drug addiction and withdrawal. His return as The Black Hood is not particularly successful, with the Crusaders taking a painful toll each time. The way this series has gone, it’s not a foregone conclusion that Greg Hettinger will survive his return, but since there’s another story after this, we know The Black Hood goes on. In fact, the closing of issue #10 ends the story with a very different black hood on.
Just as the final issue of The Bullet’s Kiss Issue #11 is another interlude to the overall story. This one going back 24 months back, a year before the beginning of The Black Hood’s return. It follows Kip Burland, his time wearing the Hood, and his death at the hands of the near-mortally wounded Officer Hettinger, that started the series rolling.
For The Lonely Crusade, Duane Swierczynski returns to pen the Black Hood’s story, continuing to make it one of the best-written series I’ve read in a very long time. The epilogue of The Bullet’s Kiss storyline (Issue #6) marked the departure of Michael Gaydos as the regular artist on the series, and while he returned for the first issue of The Lonely Crusade, Robert Hack and Rick Burchett each took on an issue, with Greg Scott (who would take over the full-time art duties on the next story arc) handling two issues. I very much appreciated how close in artistic style Gaydos, Hack, and Scott are. Kelly Fitzpatrick’s coloring of the whole thing really helped tie them together. Burchett’s style was distinct and noticeably different but still worked for the side-story he was telling. I do wish they had pushed Hack and Scott to adopt Gaydos’ bordering of the pages, just for added consistency, but Scott has a great subtle overflow in his panels that looks great. As a general rule, I’m not a fan of the dark and gritty art style, but it just works so incredibly well for this story.
The Black Hood is, without a doubt, one of the best comics out there. I understand the reasons behind Dark Circle cautiously running shorter story arcs, but they’ve managed to take one of the very first comic book superheroes and completely reinvent him, without ignoring his entire past. I haven’t seen a release date for The Black Hood: Season 2 as a collected TPB yet, but you can find my thoughts on the issues elsewhere on the site.
This gets 4.5 out of 5 for me. Pick this up, end of story.