Review - Hardcore #1 (@imagecomics)

"Now quit complaining and finish the mission!"

Freaky Friday looked at an interesting concept where personalities switch bodies. Hijinks ensue of course, but in Hardcore #1 from Image Comics the hijinks are a lot more violent. The issue is written by Andy Diggle, illustrated by Alessandro Vitti, colored by Adriano Lucas and lettered by Thomas Mauer.

Imagine being able to take over the body of anyone on Earth. Sound crazy? Not for Agent Drake and the Hardcore Program. They can turn any person into a human drone to get to targets that normal soldiers can’t. Drake is the best soldier Hardcore has to offer. But when he gets stranded in a body with only 72 hours to discover who’s hijacked the Program, he’ll have to pull out all the stops against an enemy who could be literally anyone.

The premise behind Hardcore #1 is ridiculously brilliant and Diggle makes it work all that much better. Diggle does a great job of explaining to the reader how things work with the program, what it's used for and why someone is out to take it down; in many ways, it's a textbook first issue without feeling textbook. Diggle's pacing is spot-on, quickly moving from one setting to the next in following along with Agent Drake in his daily operations. Drake himself is a brash enough leading character that it allows Diggle to really sell the program well and sort of force the reader to make a decision about the character fairly quickly. The issue even manages to throw a slight swerve into things and hit the reader with a somewhat unexpected twist that will definitely carry the series.

Vitti's artistic approach is very reminiscent of an older school of illustration. The characters are drawn with relatively thick, black outlines that gives them clear definition, although Vitti doesn't go overboard with character detail. Backgrounds are fairly simple and straightforward, effectively setting the stage for what's occurring and ensuring the reader can follow along with relative ease. The panels are primarily overlays atop one another, creating a jigsaw like effect that's helpful for reinforcing the notion of bouncing between bodies. Lucas emphasizes darker colors that match the somewhat darker tone of the book.

Hardcore #1 is a whipsaw read that's really entertaining. Agent Drake is so supremely confident in his abilities in the program that it dulls his ability to see a more immediate threat physically right in front of him. Diggle's dialogue is great at explaining things without telling the reader everything they need to know. Vitti's artwork is a solid match for capturing the often brutal essence of what the program demands of its participants. Hardcore #1 is a breath of fresh air in offering up a new take on a tried and true science fiction trope.

Hardcore #1 is available December 19.