While The Hangman might be new to the Archie Comics imprint Dark Circle, the character himself has been seen in other classic comics. There was J. Michael Straczynski’s book back in 2009 first, but writer Frank Tieri and artist Felix Ruiz are looking to take things to a much more horrific, supernatural level with this reboot. Instead of telling the story of a superhero looking for vengeance, The Hangman has been imagined as a dark mythological entity, a monster with an eye-for-an-eye mantra in place – and, in The Hangman #1, Tieri is solely focused on establishing a vendetta for his antihero.
In Chapter 1, subtitled “Damned,” Tieri goes to great lengths to introduce the audience to a character that won’t be around much longer. His name is Mike Minetta, apparently a family man to his wife and daughter as far as the first panels are concerned until Tieri shows us a man who can calmly hand his daughter her teddy bear while keeping a man trapped in the trunk of his car. The setup is pretty good – Tieri wants the audience to like the man before they really see the depths of his madness and anger, and it’s partially how The Sopranos became such a popular hit.
Except in this case, Tieri has no intention of creating a Shakespearean story about tragically flawed men. The issue itself is the reader’s first experience with the Hangman, and it will be Mikey’s first and last meeting. It sets up the unstoppable force, a man clad in costume with a hangman’s noose who can appear at any time to those who deserve his vengeance. And as the essay at the end of this issue proposes, Tieri doesn’t want his readers to find solace in the Hangman’s appearance. There are no characters to root for here, only horrible events.
That could be a problem later in the comic if Tieri fails to establish a reasonable arc for the character. But for a first issue, it works as an introduction to the Hangman and his supernaturality. At the same time, The Hangman #1 often mistakes overt masculine posturing for menace – Mikey is a caricature of mobster guys, almost to the point of oversaturation, and the tension is lost because of a tendency to layer on tough-guy dialogue.
With that said, Ruiz’s artwork is sufficiently gritty, an area that I did like about The Hangman. For a first issue, The Hangman #1 isn’t bad; it just doesn’t have a lot of substance to it. Part of that comes from the stand-alone nature of the plot, and hopefully in subsequent issues Tieri will set a course for the rest of this arc. Even so, it’ll be interesting to see what kind of focus The Hangman will have. One would assume that he would have to pursue an outsider’s perspective to drape the Hangman in the needed mystery, but for now, we don’t get any idea of where it’s heading.
For some readers, that’s going to be a problem. Right now there’s not much at stake to hook us, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see a drop in reader base from the first to second issue. That’s kind of the risk of presenting a stand-alone sequence as an introductory issue. The second issue will hopefully be a much better indication of what The Hangman has in store for us; it’s just up in the air whether some readers will hang in for it.