Review: Hard Place #1

After five years in prison, AJ Gurney, a legendary wheelman in Detroit, has decided it’s time to go straight. He returns home to work in his father’s garage and disappear into anonymity.

But during a visit to the bank, AJ is recognized by two violent bank robbers, and they demand AJ be their getaway driver. To ensure his compliance, they take a young female hostage; unfortunately, she happens to be the daughter of a Russian crime lord. AJ now finds himself pursued by a bitter police department and hunted by every asset of the Russian mob. Without a doubt, he’s in a very hard place.

I’m a sucker for this story. If there were a target audience, it’d absolutely be me. So, it’s not surprising how much I enjoyed Hard Place #1 a new noir/crime comic that feels like it’s well timed with the release of the movie Baby Driver not too long ago.

Written by Doug Wagner, the story is a solid addition to the genre as we’re introduced to AJ, a criminal whose release from jail gives him an opportunity to start over. Unfortunately stories like this aren’t built on happiness. Wagner spends the issue setting up AJ taking us into his world and intelligently takes his time getting to the real action. Wagner knows this type of story’s success hinges not on the action, but us readers caring about AJ and by taking us through his acclimation back into society we’re given numerous reasons to find sympathy and begin to cheer for him. This is someone I want to see succeed and not get sucked back into a life of crime. We all know that’s not going to be the case.

The art by Nic Rummel and Charlie Kirchoff is solid taking us into the world and helping to build an atmosphere that when the action eventually goes down, it’s shocking in a way. Their art helps perpetuate the calm before the storm and each character is delivered in a style all their own that creates a uniqueness about them all. It’s a great mix of storytelling and art.

I loved the first issue to the point I’m already wanting a big screen adaptation. Wagner and the team create a sympathetic main character who I really feel like is being dragged into a crappy situation. That also has me actually caring about what happens to him and also the ability to enjoy more than just the action. A solid debut that understands action isn’t everything.

Story: Doug Wagner Art: Nic Rummel, Charlie Kirchoff Cover Art: Brian Stelfreeze
Story: 8.75 Art: 8.50 Overall: 8.75 Recommendation: Buy

Image Comics provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review