The Hard Place #1

Writer: Doug Wagner
Artist: Nic Rummel
Colors: Charlie Kirchoff
Publisher: Image Comics

After 5 years in prison for a failed bank robbery, AJ Gurney is ready to fix his life. Settling old debts and working with his pop as a mechanic, things are tough, but he’s determined to stick with it; until his old life gives him no other choice.

The Hard Place is immediately captivating with a striking visual style, likable characters, and naturalistic dialogue. It takes the typical story of a crook trying to set his life straight but getting pulled back in, and makes it feel fresh and engaging.

The colors by Charlie Kirchoff are what really sets the look of The Hard Place apart. Bright, contrasting primary colors make every scene pop. Whether it’s the solid bright red of a pool of blood, or the unnaturally blue walls of a prison cell, the ultra stylized look of The Hard Place is a hook that immediately catches attention. The clear, exaggerated character designs by Nic Rummel fit like a glove with Kirchoff’s colors, but it’s the immediately likable characters created by Doug Wagner that keep the reader engaged. The conversational dialogue between characters creates a relaxed vibe that makes you think of them as people rather than characters, and it creates an interesting contrast with the sharp corners and bright colors that make up the look of the comic.

Even though there are probably hundreds of stories of a crook trying to set his life straight, and you know it never works out, it’s hard not to get invested in AJ’s attempts to live a quiet life with his father and get away from his past. His father’s injury that keeps him from working, the fact that they’re broke, and AJ’s lack of skill in anything but driving make it clear where the story is going, but there’s an emotional connection that makes you wish it wouldn’t.

This engaging first issue also shows the flip side of the coin, giving a peek into the violent and dangerous criminal organization run by the gangster Maksim. A typical interrogation scene is once again elevated by the style in which it’s presented, and the first look at Maksim feels like a real raising of the stakes since the reader really does care about AJ and his family.

While there might not be much depth to The Hard Place, and the plot plays out like any number of similar crime-thrillers, the style, dialogue, and characters make it engaging and feel incredibly fresh.

Rating: 4/5

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Geek-o-Rama received a copy of this book for the purpose of this review. All thoughts, comments and opinions are those of the individual reviewer.

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