If you follow our comic book news and reviews, you’ll know that we love Archie Comics and its imprint, Dark Circle Comics. Dark Circle, despite their publication schedule, are still managing to release truly buzz worthy comic books. After Dark Circle Comics hooked me with the Mark Waid and Dean Haspiel relaunch of The Fox, my excitement for their brand then moved to including The Black Hood and The Shield on my pull list. Last October when we were sent an advance copy of The Hangman, the latest title to the Dark Circle Comics library by Frank Tieri and Felix Ruiz, it quickly ascended to the top of my must read list. Two months after the release of The Hangman Chapter One, we now have Chapter Two: Damned and, literally hell, if it isn’t the best single comic issue!
Dark Circle Comics editor, Alex Segura, had previously said that Frank Tieri and Felix Ruiz’ The Hangman would be a cross between Quentin Tarantino and Stephen King. It was a fitting way to describe the re-envisioned character as Chapter One focused more on the crime aspect with a supernaturally sinister twist in a way that set it apart from The Black Hood. Tieri and Ruiz’ Chapter Two, a long awaited follow up is one hell of a story. Tieri and Ruiz, at the top of their creative game, have written an issue that is not only more creepy than King, but also more outrageous than Tarantino.
The Hangman Chapter Two: Damned picks up with hitman Mike Minetta in prison. All he remembers is “that hooded screwball” that he encountered at the conclusion of Chapter One. What kind of jail is this anyway? Minetta asks and that’s when Tieri takes us down a long hard road into hell.
Hell is right, mother ******.
Frank Tieri’s The Hangman Chapter Two takes place in hell. After being confronted by all the people he’s killed, Minetta is then confronted by the devil, himself! Satan. Lucifer. The Beast. Ol’ Scratch. It’s completely shocking and viscerally is the most haunting work Felix Ruiz and Kelly Fitzpatrick have delivered. There’s a very distinct visual style that The Hangman has and Ruiz’ provides an unsettling sense of motion for each panel. We’ve been to hell many times in film, literature, and art. Ruiz and Fitzpatrick manage to take the concepts and aesthetic of damnation and make it even more terrifying than we’ve already felt it was.
Frank Tieri is another example of the talented group of writers Dark Circle Comics are currently working with. The Hangman is just as much a must read as The Black Hood and The Shield are, if not more so, based on the sheer boldness of it’s storytelling choices. A year ago when we met Greg Hettinger, Paul Patton Jr, and Victoria Adams, the only place of fantasy I ever saw the Dark Circle Universe exploring was through Sabrina The Teenage Witch (and that could be argued as existing outside of Dark Circle Comics). But here I’m proven wrong and after speaking with Mr. Frank Tieri at the New Jersey Comic Expo, his very promise of a more supernatural story is finally here. We learn that “the fruitcake in the hood” – The Hangman, or “stupid urban legend”/”boia” has been around for centuries. As the devil tells Minetta, The Hangman has been “collecting the putrid souls of those that the home office [Heaven] can’t abide existing anymore.” It plays a bit like the concept of director/writer Mark Steven Johnson’s 2007 Ghost Rider movie, but in only the idea of a bounty hunter coming for souls. Tieri, at his very best, gives us a better concept which not only provides us with our spookiest entry in the Dark Circle Comics universe, but an absolute must read of January 2016.
Frank Tieri and Felix Ruiz’ The Hangman is true art in every way. And it’s hella good. And for those confused by the ending of The Hangman Chapter One, READ Chapter Two and “welcome, Hangman.”
The Hangman Chapter Two: Damned gets five stars and ascends to What’cha Reading’s must read of the week and must read of 2016!
Script: Frank Tieri
Art: Felix Ruiz, Kelly Fitzpatrick, Rachel Deering
Cover: Tim Bradstreet
Variant Cover: Mike Huddleston
On Sale Date: 1/20
32-page, full color comic