Sunday, 14 February 2010

A to Z: H is for (the) Hood: Blood From Stones!

H already?! I'm a madman! we've officially passed the first line of that kid's song about the alphabet! And it's still not very good. As nature intended.

There are some comics that you just plain can't write about without there being the risk of your material becoming a ridiculous hate speech influenced by bias and a great dislike for something involved. Moreso if you're writing about an amazing gem that was glanced at by someone and warped beyond the original image by that specific someone.

So I shall try NOT to reference my dislike for how Brian Michael Bendis warped The Hood for his own needs in the perfect case of 'Square Peg, Round Hole' character utilisation since... ever, and indeed just try to let you all know what an excellent comic this Marvel MAX miniseries is and how well-crafted and captivating the cast and storyline are.

Because this is The Hood: Blood From Stones, and if you haven't read it you're CRAZY.

For those of you who don't know, The Hood: Blood From Stones was a 6-issue MAX miniseries that turned the super-human origin story on its head, giving a no-good scumbag (likeable though he may well be) who admires supervillains powers through unusual circumstances and watching him decide that with great power comes great opportunity to be an excellent criminal.

Actually that's an incredibly vague way of explaining this story, let's try that again. Parker Robbins is the son of a small-time crook who worked for the Kingpin and died. His mother is in a vegetative state, he cheats on his wife with a hooker and he has a child on the way. Oh and he admires supervillains and the amount of women they pull with their bad boy antics. One night his cousin and best friend John King convinces him to help steal what he's been told are valuable good in a warehouse. Of course that isn't the case, as it turns out to be a warehouse with a freakish demon in it. One that Parker supposedly shoots dead to protect his cousin. Taking the demon's hooded cloak and chunky boots as some sort of recompense for the bust being less than lucrative and moves on. He lives a happy life of adultery and nothing interesting ever happens to him again....

This guy's a perfectly reasonable demon to find in your average warehouse late in the night. I mean I have a similar one in my shed, so why not a warehouse?

BUT WAIT! That's not true at all. Later that evening some thugs down an alley and try to steal some shoes off of Parker. In response Parker throws them into the face of his assailants and runs, trying to get the demon's boots on along the way. Once the boots are on he disappears from the thug's sights and into the air. Because as you can probably figure out, these boots are made for flying. Sensing opportunity beckoning he shows John King his awesome boots and learns that the cloak makes him invisible whilst holding his breath (by getting suckerpunched in the stomach by his alcoholic cousin of course). With this revelation of convenient powers in hand they plan to steal some blood diamonds, which leads to all sorts of hell breaking loose involving a cop murder, the Golem and one of my favourite characters in comics, the Constrictor. But to explain all that would not only take too long but also spoil far too much of what is one of the best comics to come out of the largely mediocre Marvel Max line.
I don't really need a joke caption here, the panels really float on their own merits here. *rimshot* Sorry, I'll hit myself.

If that's not enough to make you realise this comic is amazing, it probably helps that this convenient rambling template I use to write these articles follows up the synopsis by explaining what there is to love about the comic.

To say that Brian K. Vaughan is a talented writer is a complete understatement and indeed the full extent of his talent is something obvious to just about any comic fan who's read Runaways, Y: The Last Man, Deus Ex Machina, X-Men Icons: Chamber or indeed this very comic I'm writing about. The man has chops, especially when focused on character development or anything remotely mysterious, making both aspects of his works completely captivating and keeping the reader clinging onto their... wherever they're sitting until he's finished whatever story he's telling. The Hood: Blood From Stones may not be his perfect work, but it easily stands shoulder to shoulder with every other series I've just mentioned in this paragraph.
"Like a character that gets viciously raped by another writer years later?" NO BAD MAX, DROP THE GRUDGE!

Kyle Hotz is really the talent that completes this work and makes it worthy of the highest praise. I can't speak much for his other works, but the art he provided for both Hood miniseries are some of the best pencils I've seen in comics. It's all very animated (a term that doesn't make much sense in what is ostensibly a static medium) and almost cartoony (another term that yadda yadda yadda) whilst still being perfectly suited to what is indisputably a dark as all hell story. In fact considering that the only other work of his that I've read outside of the Hood stuff is Annihilation Conquest: Wraith, another series stooped in darkness, it's probably safe to consider that Hotz is ideally suited to dark, atmospheric works that don't reduce themselves to being purely grim, gritty and visually boring, like so many other dark comic series. Where he truly excels is in his renditions of the Hood in full costume and the supervillains shown within. Constrictor is of course my favourite example of Hotz's artistry, being a character that when drawn right is excellent in his design.
"I mean, Jack here's so human he lost his head completely when he met the Punisher!"... No, that's not a very good joke either...

In fact that's another reason to love this book: the side characters. Choosing who to use in a story like this can define what sort of tone will come across; if you use A-list villains you're either reaching too high or your comic will come across as very assuming, believing the comic deserves such highly popular characters. On the other hand, using Paste-Pot Pete just means you don't even care if your ancillary characters look like jokes. The choices here are nice and simple, obscure(ish) characters that are either classics (Jack O'Lantern) or characters that are middle of the road C-listers (Constrictor, Shocker). It's the sort of angle that suits introducing a new character into the Marvel Universe without it being incredibly forced, like so many failed characters before him. I mean it took years until The Hood came up again, as an anti-hero type in BEYOND! but that's beside the point.
Hopefully I've been showing you the upside(-down) of The Hood.... GOD DAMN IT WHAT IS WRONG WITH MY JOKES TODAY?!

Anyway, I'm having trouble keeping on track. The comic is full of interesting moments (most of which I'm desperately trying not to spoil, as you really have to encounter them yourselves) that have the capacity to blow your socks off. Of course if you don't wear socks often like me you really need to be careful or you'll actually just straight-up lose your feet. Which makes it hard to walk, sure, but at least you'll still be able to sit down with your copy of The Hood: Blood From Stones.

Which you should buy. Now. Oh look a link to where you could buy it. Amazing.

Note: The Hood: Blood From Stones does not in fact blow off your feet, that would be pretty much impossible. But it IS awesome.

Okay that's H. Which is a bit different than the norm but hey hopefully you enjoyed reading it. What's I gonna be? I... ACTUALLY KNOW! It'll be fun and confusing to read when it's out!

1 comment:

  1. Well said, mate. I liked this series, a lot. It's got some very cool beats and the characters are interesting. That and I'd have BKV's baby any day.

    Great choice, bring on the I!