Hardcore #1: Robert Kirkman’s New Gig

The Walking Dead scribe's latest project involves science-fiction plot devices reminiscent of Fringe.

Iann Robinsonby Iann Robinson

Hardcore #1

Hardcore #1 is Robert Kirkman’s latest enterprise. It’s a spy novel with high tech gadgets and an assassins tale with double crosses and espionage galore. The problem with critiquing something like this comes from it being a first issue. Alone, Hardcore #1 is fraught with clichés and B movie plot devices. That being said, I don’t know how it will evolve or where Kirkman will take it. As for now, it’s not much more than an episode of Fringe.

The Government is trying to perfect the idea of assassination. When the story opens, we’re inside a big crime family meeting. Two brothers sit at the head of the table, one who has recently taken over the family. Suddenly, the other brother leaps up and, with the skills of a trained assassin, attempts to take out his sibling. Cut to a giant laboratory where two scientists look over a control panel leading to a giant tank. In the tank is a man connected to a helmet and various tubes. It turns out the man in the tank is somehow controlling the brother on the assassination tear. Once the killing is done, the man in the tank snaps back.

Drake, the man in the tank, is the hero for this story. Turns out the Government have perfected the art of transmitting one man’s mind into another, thus making killing much easier. The entire idea is this. A sniper targets a victim and shoots a small tracer (called a hardcore) into their neck. Once the tracer has connected with the brain, it is then easy to slide another consciousness into the victim and use him or her to kill anyone. It allows the Government to take control of a crime bosses’ brother in order to get close to him, or a spies’ lover or an Al Qaeda member’s mom. You get the idea.

Our hero is an anti-hero. A killer who lives small and secretly delivers groceries to his lonely old neighbor. The enemy in Hardcore is the man who originally designed the project. He’s a brilliant loose cannon out for revenge. Through a serious of double-crosses the enemy takes control of the project and leaves Drake stuck in another person. Seems if you stay in another person’s head for over 72 hours the tracer disintegrates and you die or suffer major brain damage. Right before the take over, Drake had jumped into the body of an enemy soldier and now he’s stuck there.

Where to begin with the plot problems? First, why this elaborate scheme to shoot one guy, take him over and then possess him long enough to kill somebody else.  Why not just shoot the target, infiltrate his mind and have him commit suicide? In the opening sequence, Drake rushes his target out of a window and then snaps out just before impact. Why not use that course of action across the board?

The hero is the anti-hero? Really? Drake has a heart of gold but the calculated indifference to be a murderer? Isn’t that every anti-hero ever? The bad guy is the brilliant but crazy guy who built the project and was forced out by the Government? Kirkman isn’t even trying with that one. I also love the high-ranking government official who just happens to be working for the bad guy. It’s all a little too easy.

My two favorite clichés have to do with the set up for the next issue. It just so happens that right before getting stuck having to save his own life, Drake jumps into an incredibly physically fit solider with natural fighting instincts and connections everywhere. Wouldn’t it have been far more interesting to have him leap into a shlub and see just how good Drake really is?

Finally there’s the classic “enemy gives me plenty of time” trick. Rather than opening the tank and shooting Drake dead while he’s disabled, the enemy here decides to tell Drake the entire plan and let him run out the 72 hours to his death. Did this guy ever watch an episode of Batman or see a James Bond movie? I wonder if, right down to the wire, Drake manages to rescue himself? As a fan of Robert Kirkman, I expect more from him.

The art is boring. Brian Stelfreeze basically regurgitates the mix of animation and computer graphics. The type of easy work that Image and other companies use to get a book off the ground. For me, Hardcore #1 is a boring disappointment, but it might get better. I won’t know because I have no interest in reading it, but it might evolve into something better than the forgotten Saturday afternoon drive-in flick it is now.

4

(2: story, 2: art)