Friday, May 1, 2009

The Hood: Blood From Stones (Brian K. Vaughan)

The novel I'm reading right now is slower than molasses going uphill in January, but I'm determined to finish it, so in the mean time I'm going to review another comic book. This week's comic was a six-issue mini-series published through Marvel's MAX line, which tends to put out more adult books. They even put those fun little "EXPLICIT CONTENT" warnings on the front!


Parker Robbins is a small-time criminal living in NYC, barely making ends meet as he tries to provide for himself, his pregnant girlfriend, and his mentally disabled mother. Life pretty much blows for Parker, until he gets a tip about a mysterious shipment coming into an unguarded warehouse, and decides to steal whatever it is, assuming it has to be worth something. When he opens the door and finds nothing but a folding chair and a circle of candles, he assumes the job was a bust, until he is attacked by a demon-like monster in a red cape and boots. He shoots the monster, steals the cape and boots, and makes his escape before the cops show up.

Lame, right? Parker thought so, too, until he tried on the items he stole and discovered that they bestowed upon him powers of flight and temporary invisibility. From there, he attempts to rise up through the criminal underworld, but pisses off people on both sides of the law when he steals a shipment of blood diamonds meant for a local crime boss, shooting an NYPD officer in the process. Despite his newly-gained powers—and a new alias, The Hood—, life still pretty much sucks for Parker Robbins.

This series does an incredible job showing off BKV's talent and range as a writer. You may remember him as the author of Y: The Last Man, the first comic series that I reviewed here for The Daily Genoshan. The only two things that the two books have in common, however, is their awesomeness. Where Y is epic, allegorical, and filled with quirky moments and high-end concepts, The Hood is a gritty, close-up look at what it's like to be on the other side of the law, making choices that might be seen as less than heroic. Parker often has good intentions, and his primary motives are to take care of those close to him, but BKV doesn't hesitate to show the reader some of the less admirable qualities that Parker possesses, either. He carries a gun wherever he goes, doesn't think twice about inflicting pain on others, and even has mistress/hooker on the side that he uses to get away from his pregnant girlfriend. Somehow, it still isn't hard to empathize with him, though. Parker Robbins is a compelling character that has to make difficult choices, and more often than not doesn't choose "correctly," but still feels guilty from time to time about the life he's living. It's pretty great writing.

Another interesting thing to note is the fact that, similar to other characters that BKV has created in the Marvel Universe, The Hood has become very popular among fans. He has recently been written into several major story arcs in some of the most widely-read ongoing series on the shelves today. It's a testament to BKV's writing and characterization skills that something of his creation would become so prominent in the mainstream Marvel books. If you see this one on the shelves at Barnes & Noble or your local comic book store, I would highly recommend it. It's not too long, not too expensive, the perfect-sized story.


The Hood: Blood From Stones
by Brian K. Vaughan

This isn't groundbreaking stuff, but it's really interesting to see what happens on the other side of the superhero struggle. I enjoyed being able to witness the process by which a young man with his entire life ahead of him decides to become a super-powered criminal.

Being printed under the Marvel MAX label, I would've thought that The Hood might contain a few more scenes that are a little racier. I think it was only put out under MAX so Marvel wouldn't have to cut out the swearing and the handful of bloody scenes.

It's an interesting take on a popular genre, and an intriguing read on the whole. I would say that this is one book that your friends who don't like superhero books would still probably enjoy. A few known supervillains make cameos, but none of the heroes, which—and this is weird to say—almost makes it seem more realistic, as if it could just be a short story involving some mystical apparel.


Also, just so everyone knows, TOMORROW is Free Comic Book Day! No strings attached, just walk into the comic book store nearest you and pick up some free comics! Most stores tend to run sales on FCBD, as well, since so many new potential customers come in for the free stuff. House of Secrets on Olive Ave. in Burbank has a sale of 40% ALL BOOKS tomorrow. That's the store I usually go to, so I'll be glad to pick up some free books and maybe some discounted volumes as well. Check it out at a store near you. You really don't have anything to lose (FreeFreeFreeFreeFree!)

Keep reading, Genoshans!

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