By Zack Quaintance — Robert Kirkman—creator of The Walking Dead, Invincible, etc.—is one of the best idea writers in comics, with any new series attached to his name pretty much guaranteeing a certain accessible sort of enthralling-yet-simple conceit. It’s a level of vision that has made him basically as successful as one can get within the industry. In fact, it’s been said that he first pitched The Walking Dead as having a twist part-way through that would see aliens arrive and have been responsible for the zombies, because no one but him could see a world in which just doing a simple zombie comic would work.
This is all a long way of noting that the idea behind Hardcore #1 was first created by Kirkman and seminal artist Marc Silvestri, back in 2010 for the Top Cow pilot season concept, which saw that publisher running a series of original concepts, essentially first issue pitches. Well now Kirkman’s own Image Comics imprint is reviving some of those (see Stellar early in the year), and Hardcore is among them.
Taken over here by the more-than-capable team of Andy Diggle (Thief of Thieves) and Alessandro Vitti (Iceman), Hardcore is the story of a government program involving a new technology that allows operatives to pilot the bodies of other humans, often using them as drone-like assassins to takeout threats to national security, or dictators, or whomever. The use of drone in that description is intentional, given that this comic goes to pretty blatant lengths to draw a connection between the tech central to its plot and drone piloting, essentially painting this as the next evolution of those military initiatives.
It’s a solid enough idea, but one that could have played as simplistic if not executed properly. Diggle and Vitti, however, are a more than capable team to pass it off to, delivering a tightly-plotted and impeccably-paced story here that gleefully bounces from one suspenseful plot point to the next. This is a fantastic first issue, in that the creators here manage to fill us in on all the needed exposition in a way that feels like it has stakes, rather than being a transparent and slow info dump (a pet peeve of mine in debuts).
What also does wonders for this book is that rather than sticking to the straight governmental military angle, the story here introduces an element of proprietary conflict. Not to spoil too much, but the primary villain of this story is the man who invented the technology that allows users to occupy from a remote location the bodies of others. He resents that another pilot—our main character—has been tapped to use the innovation he developed, and...well, you’ll have to read the book, but what he does from there creates waves likely to power this story quite well moving forward. Vitti is a great choice to render this whole thing, deploying a style here that’s reminiscent of both the tech and military worlds at once, as well as intricately detailed in an almost photo-realistic way throughout much of the exciting proceedings.
Overall: A fantastic execution of an unsurprisingly solid idea for a new comic, Hardcore is one of those first issues that expertly drops off all the needed exposition as it hops along its perfect pacing. The overall quality of this comic, however, will be determined by where it goes now that its foundation has been laid. 8.0/10
Story By: Robert Kirkman and Andy Diggle
Writer: Andy Diggle
Artist: Alessandro Vitti
Colorist: Adriano Lucas
Letterer: Thomas Mauer
Publisher: Image Comics
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Zack Quaintance is a tech reporter by day and freelance writer by night/weekend. He Tweets compulsively about storytelling and comics as BatmansBookcase.