After a week of being on the road, we’re back with debuting comics reviews. This week we’re seeing if The Hard Place from Image Comics is worth your time or if it simply spins its wheels.
As always, for the week in Marvel and DC check out their respective rundowns on The Beat.
The Hard Place #1
STORY: Doug Wagner
ART: Nic Rummel
COLORS: Charlie Kirchoff
LETTERS: Frank Cvetkovic
PUBLISHED BY: Image Comics
Human stories are hard to tell in comics since the medium is built on people seeming mythical or supernatural in some way. One theme that’s universal in relatability is second chances. Something we’ve all needed or wished for at some time in our own lives. Writer, Doug Wagner aims to tell such a redemption tale in Image’s The Hard Place.
After five years in prison, AJ Gurney is looking to leave his past behind him in order to return to a simple life of fixing cars with his father. While the shadows of his past dealings with a violent crime boss loom, it also seems as though the universe itself won’t cut AJ a break. A simple trip to the bank for a terrible high-interest loan puts him face to face with his legendary criminal wheelman reputation. As much as the story pulls you in, I couldn’t get over how much fine print AJ’s possible loan could yield. Does he even get a free toaster? Is that still a thing banks do?
Just as with Wagner’s previous book Plastic, the writer’s strengths are his characters. The book’s lead, AJ, is someone readers can find themselves pulling for. He might have been a legendary getaway driver for bank robbers but when we meet him he instantly wants to face his biggest demon, the ruthless crime boss Mr. Sidorov. Moves like that are usually set up for future issues, but Wagner cements AJ’s paramount desire to fix his life from the start. Even Mr. Sidorov is loaded with devilish charisma. Part man looking out for his family and part vindictive punisher, what Sidorov does to some dude who messed with his daughter is unapologetically brutal but almost justified to the audience. The book does something many writers take for granted in new comics, it puts the best and worst of its main characters on full display rather than assuming it will have that opportunity as it goes along. First impressions are always key, especially in comics.
The art team of Charlie Kirchoff and Nic Rummel do some fantastic action work in the pages. Flashback car crashes, beatings, and shootouts are all visually intriguing. However, some of the more intimate moments of the debut issue have a bit of jarring discord. Moments like the diner scene with AJ and his friend best illustrate this flaw. Rummel’s style doesn’t lend itself to drawing acting in the characters, which is key in showing characters can emote in a static medium such as comics. When you combine that with lots of empty panel space a moment of a character speaking feels like a Guy Ritchie title screen, empty calories. There’s enough overall goodness in the book to overlook something like that but it is something that needs to be polished as the mini-series progresses.
The Hard Place is for anyone who’s ever watched a car chase and imagined the thrill of playing on the wrong side of the law. AJ’s story has all the makings of a juicy crime story loaded with action, money, and power. Its buttress of the average joe looking to walk the straight and narrow while the universe seemingly has other plans might be an overdone plot but Wagner’s talent for fleshing characters in relatable ways gives The Hard Place something special to buy into.
[WON] The Hard Place #1 is twenty plus pages of kinetic character and potential energy. A methodical opening bolstered by some attention grabbing character work making itself necessary for anyone who loves down to earth crime stories.
Here’s the rest of this weeks #1 comics:
- NIGHTWING THE NEW ORDER #1 (DC)
- DONALD & MICKEY #1 (IDW)
- GENERATIONS UNWORTHY THOR & MIGHTY THOR #1 (MARVEL)
- CATALYST PRIME INCIDENTALS #1 (Lion Forge)
- HI-FI FIGHT CLUB #1 (BOOM! Studios)
- LADY DEATH MERCILESS ONSLAUGHT #1 (COFFIN Comics)
- LAND THAT TIME FORGOT FROM EARTHS CORE #1 (American Mythology Comics)
- WAR MOTHER #1 (VALIANT)