DC Comics gratuitous “Villains Month” series of one-shots continues this week with Black Hand #1. Black Hand was elevated to a more significant role by Green Lantern-wunderkind Geoff Johns, and now gets the spotlight in his own issue.
Following the events of the “Wrath of the First Lantern” crossover, Black Hand was killed (again.) Being the master of death however, it should be no surprise that William Hand is back once more. While the world is being torn apart by the Crime Syndicate from the events of Forever Evil, some vestiges of law enforcement are still trying to maintain order. After Black Hand inadvertently attacks some police officers, he is thrown in jail. Gradually he recalls what he is capable of and escapes his prison. As Black Hand witnesses the chaos of the Crime Syndicate’s rule, he regains memories of the “life” he had before and who he is.
Writer Charles Soule wisely chooses to forego any origin story setup and instead places us in the mind of the recently resurrected Black Hand. This technique allows new readers the opportunity to follow along as Black Hand pieces together who he is. Likewise, veteran Green Lantern fans don’t have to reread the same old story over again, but rather enjoy winks and nods to what they already know about the character. Soule has impressed with his fresh take on Red Lanterns, so it’s nice to see him touch a little bit closer to the main Green Lantern series with a character like Black Hand. Black Hand is so clearly a despicable and creepy character, but Soule’s scripting of Black Hand’s “self (re)discovery” brings a naiveté to the character that is appealing in a way.
The main flaw of this issue however is the artwork. Artist Alberto Ponticelli and colorist Danny Vozzo certainly have the right tone for Black Hand #1, but it’s haphazardly put together in places. Ponticelli was the regular artist for the now-cancelled Frankenstein, Agent of S.H.A.D.E. series, so he is no stranger to the gruesome storytelling. The thick-lines and muddy colors of the book match the character well, especially for any panels involving zombies. But more often than not the artwork is shaky and somewhat sloppy, specifically in a vital full page spread where Black Hand remembers who he really is.
Out of all of the Green Lantern “Villains Month” one-shots however, Black Hand #1 is the best one so far. Soule brings the villain who caused a universe-wide zombie epidemic down to a more personal level and it works. He even devises a clever use of Black Hand’s power that makes you wonder why no one else thought of it before. Black Hand may not be directly involved with the Green Lantern books for the moment, but when he eventually is, it would be great to see Charles Soule continue working with the character.