DARK CIRCLE COMICS (Archie Comics) The Black Hood preview = Duane Swierczynski, writer. Michael Gaydos, artist. The Fox preview = Dean Haspiel and Mark Waid, writers. Dean Haspiel, artist. The Shield first look = Adam Christopher and Chuck Wendig, writers. David Williams, artist.
COVER APPEAL 0-3 POINTS: The cover is simple yet very striking - - something that cover artist Franco Francavilla excels at. The Trinity like image of Dark Circle’s two male heroes at left and right flanks as if protecting the innocent and more colorful Patriot in the foreground leaves a favorable impression. Kudos for putting an actual dark circle in the background. 3 points.
STORY 0-3 POINTS: The 11-page preview of The Black Hood is by far the most interesting story here and offers plenty of reasons for readers to pick up the book and learn more: a gritty, street smart crime tale set in Philadelphia. A motorcycle cop is seriously disfigured in a gun battle where he unintentionally guns down a mask-wearing vigilante. He’s hailed as a hero but inside he doesn’t feel it. His recovery and therapy is difficult and will lead to the decision to become the new Black Hood. Even though readers can figure it out, it’s the way the story is told that will hold attention and keep things moving. Told in first person narration, it’s down to earth and heart-warming at the same time. The art is compressed with lots of panels per page, but has a very photo-realistic look to it. And it’s dark - - the way I prefer my crime tales. The second 11-page preview, The Fox, is also told in first person narration by the main character – a photo journalist who is following in his father’s footsteps with a dual identity as The Fox. Paul Patton Jr and his son cover the story of a ghost town being converted into a river basin and uncover some shady doings. The art is very appealing in a pared-down adventure cartoon style (Johnny Quest, anyone?) and the character insights and father-son discourse set them apart from standard fare. The Shield preview doesn’t reveal much, just three pages of character concept and art. Still, it looks interesting. 2.5 POINTS.
ART 0-3 POINTS: Gaydos’ work on The Black Hood and Haspiel on The Fox are both first-rate. It’s not quite fair to judge the Wifredo Torres designs and Williams sketches on The Shield since a lot of it is preliminary work and ideas and not finished art. 2 POINTS.
YOUTH APPEAL 0-3 POINTS: The back cover has a disclaimer = Rated Teen +, Violent and Mature Content. Here’s hoping that gets viewed before a very young reader wants to pick it up. However, there is really nothing in this preview to be worried about. Some curse words in The Black Hood story have been removed. 2 POINTS.
NEW READER APPEAL 0-3 POINTS: Since these are intro stories it’s not difficult at all to follow anything here. There is also one page of text information in the back of the book about each series that provides further information and quotes from the creators. 3 POINTS.
PROMOTIONAL CONSIDERATIONS 0-3 POINTS: It’s made very clear upfront that Dark Circle is a new imprint of Archie Comics, and how they hope to offer a different type of super-hero fare. They make some bold promises, which I sincerely hope they can bring to fruition. I’ve already read the full first issue of The Black Hood and feel that it has a lot to offer. I’m reading this one monthly. I will probably pick up the first trade paperback of The Fox as well as the first issues of The Shield (it’s neat that an icon of patriotism is female, a nice spin on what came before.) The back pages also tease a new series , The Hangman, by Frank Tieri to look forward to later in the year. I really hope Dark Circle pulls it off, and I’m rooting for them. 3 POINTS.
BONUS POINTS = WOULD I PERSONALLY RECOMMEND THIS BOOK? 0-2 POINTS: Absolutely. I’m intrigued by these titles. I would much rather read these than all the multiple revisions going on over at Marvel and DC. I’m also wondering if this may be the first super-hero line where the main characters don’t possess extraordinary abilities but just good skills. 2 POINTS.
FINAL RANKING FOR DARK CIRCLE COMICS = 17.5 POINTS – HIGHLY RECOMMENDED. A perfect example of representing the industry proudly.