The Hood: Blood from Stones
Collects: The Hood #1-6 (2002)
Released: July 2007 (Marvel)
Format: 160 pages / color / $19.99 / ISBN: 9780785128182
What is this?: A small-time crook gets an alien’s cloak and boots, which give him superpowers — and a chance at becoming a big-time crook.
The culprits: Writer Brian K. Vaughn and artist Kyle Hotz
When the trade paperback for The Hood: Blood from Stones went out of print, I thought my chance to read the story was pretty much nil, unless a local library picked it up. But somehow Marvel slipped a hardcover copy past me a couple of years ago …
Hood is the story of an obvious Spider-Man analogue, Parker Robbins (“Parker” for Peter Parker, “Robbins” because he’s a thief and a thug). Unlike Peter, no one was around to teach him about the positive correlation between power and responsibility, so when he and his cousin shoot an alien and take his super shoes and cloak, Parker’s thinking of supervillainy, not superheroics.
Not that Parker is evil. He visits his mother, who has Alzheimer’s, in the nursing home, telling her stories he thinks will make her happy, and he really wants to get her into a better home. He wants to build a better life with his pregnant girlfriend, although he lies to her about how he gets his illegal money. When the use of his powers leads to the grave injury of a police officer, he’s deeply sorry; when his cousin is thrown in jail for his crimes, he works hard to get him cleared.
But he wants to be a criminal like his father, who worked in organized crime. He visits a Russian prostitute. He lies, takes the easy way out, makes the easy choices, often by pulling a trigger. Like Peter, he has had a hard life; unlike Peter, he doesn’t have strong moral teaching or a moral anchor. So he drifts. It keeps Parker sympathetic, despite all the wrong things he does.
Hood is labeled as — and definitely is — part of Marvel’s Max line. There is plenty of sex, violence, and cursing. The interesting part is this allows writer Brian K. Vaughn the freedom to write natural dialogue in a way that’s totally different than Brian Bendis’s “natural” dialogue, even when Bendis was doing indy comics and could curse. There’s no stammering, no awkward pauses; it’s just men laughing at and with each other, insulting everyone in sight. It feels natural and is often funny.
The Hood’s big plan is to rob an incoming shipment of blood diamonds, and there he runs into his first superpowered opponents. If there’s a fault in the story, it’s in Parker’s opposition: he easily defeats the Constrictor, Jack O’Lantern, and Shocker (at once), outwits a pair of FBI agents (who aren’t that bright), and manages to pull one over on the mobster he robs and his enforcer. They seem too easily overcome to be serious antagonists. However, even though a pair of pistols are technically part of the Hood’s “powers,” Vaughn does make sure to show they’re not the answer to Parker’s problems — they do little to the supervillians, and they only make his problems worse in the end.
The story ends with an obvious set-up for later stories: the crime boss who the Hood fought cries over a picture of his family, the widow of a man killed during the story puts on a costume, and the alien whom Parker killed to get his super-equipment is shown to be alive. None of this is followed up on; whatever Vaughn had in mind, it came to naught. This is a bit frustrating, mostly in the sense that Vaughn’s vision for the Hood — which has largely been subverted — is an interesting one. The subplots he used as a trailer … well, I won’t miss not seeing them.
I like penciler Kyle Hotz’s art, although a good amount of credit should also go to inker Eric Powell and colorist Brian Haberlin. The Hood’s world is entirely a nighttime one, and it’s filled with shadows and darkness — appropriate for someone who’s path keeps going farther and farther into the darkness. In this world of darkness, Hotz’s art creates a New York filled with wide-eyed craziness, shabby apartments, and second-hand lives. The women are all overly curvaceous, although he avoids gratuitous shots.
I wish I had read The Hood earlier; it really is an excellent story. It’s too bad Vaughn and Hotz’s version of the character was jettisoned like a horse in the Doldrums, but that doesn’t affect this story.
Rating: (4 of 5)