Hard: Year One #1
writer: Howard Chaykin
artist: Stephen Thompson
in New York City, tourists are gathering for the bicentennial,
and though everybody has started saying "I Heart New York,"
this isn't the lovable metropolis it became. Somewhere on
the streets, a young comics professional named Howard Chaykin
wanders around, a few months from getting the assignment
to adapt a little sci-fi movie called Star Wars to
comics. He understands the heat, he understands the grit
- and he understands that someday in the U.S., we'll see
comics as something for adults.
put himself into the story here, but the atmosphere of 1976
NYC is something he knows well. The other thing he knows
well, though he often has put a sci fi spin on it in his
work, is crime. The gritty street crime that they used to
make policiers about, back in the day when people
used words like policier.
For a good crime
story, it helps to have one good cop, and Chaykin has one
of the best in modern culture, John McClane. You know, he's
that guy. And maybe this is the story of how he became that
guy, narrating with a world-weariness that can only come
from a character looking back after decades of being ruined
by ill-thought out sequels. After all, if the charm of Die
Hard was how human McClane was, there's no better way
to explore that humanity and that decency then to go back
to his days as a beat cop.
and McClane's affection for those days come through in the
narration, though this first issue spends much more time
setting up the conflict for this arc. A variety of characters
get introduced, one of whom will be in the wrong place at
the wrong time, as some sort of real estate scam gets set
up at the same time as a bank heist. All of it seems to
be converging on a parade route with a familiar face doing
will sort out as the story progresses, and it all seems
a bit earthier and not as larger than life than the films.
But that seems only right here. Chaykin's setting up a good
crime drama the way they used to be; if McClane is nostalgic
for a dirtier New York City, so are we for a good plot with
urgency that doesn't require huge set pieces, just a lot
of actual thought.
also working a little outside of his wheelhouse - so far,
this doesn't have his almost trademark sexuality imbuing
it. There's still corruption, but Chaykin is also presenting
some innocence and an innocent or two.
He's also got
an able artistic partner in Stephen Thompson, whose work
recalls seventies artists like Ernie Chan and Tony DeZuniga
while still having a modern feel. It's not particularly
flashy, but it's solid, and Thompson manages the tricky
task of capturing a Bruce Willis younger than we could ever
have remembered. The streets as drawn by Thompson feel sweaty
and grimy, and he's already captured his unlikely hero.
you're a fan of Die Hard, this is a solid backstory.
If you're not a fan, you should check it out anyway. You
might be surprised to discover a good cop story about real
people that treats the reader with intelligence. Hey, we've
got an actual comic for grown-ups without it being pandering.
Hey, write to us and
let us know what you think!