I can’t remember why Dark Reign: The Hood stuck out to me when I was looking through someone’s Sequential Swap page recently. Maybe I had heard something good about the book or thought I had? Whatever the reason, I did and I just read it. While I wasn’t blown away, I did enjoy the reading experience quite a bit.
Set in the post-Civil War, post-Secret Invasion, pre-Heroic Age Marvel Universe where things were looking grim and Norman Osborne was inexplicably given the same station as one of the country’s greatest heroes ever, Nick Fury. At the time, Hood not only organized his own group of super villains to work together and share the wealth, but was also a part of The Cabal, the villain version of the Illuminati. But that’s not really what the story is about.
The story is really about a man trying to keep his life in order, which is no small order considering his life involves a wife and kid who don’t know about his criminal endeavors, a group of supervillains always looking for a reason to betray him and a new mask on the scene called White Fang trying to take the Hood out for killing her husband. Oh, plus, Hood’s trying to save himself from Dormamu, the demon who’s connected to the cloak he wears. Needless to say, it ain’t easy being the Hood.
Part of the charm of the story–written by the great Jeff Parker, one of my favorite comic writers around–comes from the times when the camera focuses on some of the villains in the Hood’s gang, including members of the Wrecking Crew. I consider them the go-to villains in the Marvel U and, even though I know almost nothing about them, have grown tired of their constant appearances. However, in this book, they actually get some screen time, which allows me to enjoy their banter. Plus, it’s always fun watching capers from the villains’ perspective to mix it up a little. I don’t know if a villain book can work as an ongoing, but it worked great in this case.
I think there’s also a lot of fun for Marvel aficionados to be found in this book with all the obscure villains running around the same way a book like Villains United was for DC fans. Not being nearly as familiar with Marvel as I am with DC, I didn’t have a ton of those “Hey, THAT guy!” moments, but the characters each had distinct enough voices that I didn’t need to be in on the joke to laugh along with it which I think is a huge accomplishment for a book like this that seems like it would just be something of a throwaway title during the machine that was Dark Reign.
There isn’t anything throwaway in Dark Reign: The Hood, especially when it comes to Kyle Hotz’ artwork. He’s got a kind of stylized look to his characters that don’t make them big and bold and beautiful, like you’re used to seeing in a lot of superhero comics, but it works perfectly because he’s drawing the bad guys. He reminded me of a slightly more restrained Kelly Jones.
I don’t know important it was to the larger Dark Reign story because I wasn’t reading a ton of Marvel books at that time, but it doesn’t really matter. This is a book about the Hood dealing with his life while also showing off some fun villains, creating a new hero in White Fang and trying to keep the largest supervillain gang ever in order. It’s a fun read that doesn’t take much knowledge of what’s going on around it, which I really appreciate as I’ve become pretty much exclusively a trade-waiter when it comes to comics.