By Zack Quaintance — First things first, Excellence #1—the new comic from Brandon Thomas (Horizon, Catalyst Prime: Nobel) Khary Randolph (Mosaic), Emilio Lopez, and Deron Bennett—has an incredibly powerful opening scene. And it’s not the usual comicbook thing of fiddling with time to put an explosion, violence, or death up front. No, in Excellence #1 the opening scene finds its power in the universal while at the same time setting the tone for the themes that will….Read More
By Zack Quaintance — A very tardy set of Top Comics to Buy for April 10, 2019 this week, but what can I say? There were a lot of great books, and I wanted to make sure I’d read as many of them as possible before settling on my recommendations. It’s called due dilligence, and I’ll be damned if I don’t...um, do it. Yeah.Read More
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.
By Zack Quaintance — When I start an original series, I usually have preview text handy to orient myself and keep from wondering questions that might bog down the narrative. I’m sure some purists would say a comic should stand by itself, but I’m fine with this. Comics is a serialized medium informed by its past arguably more than any other storytelling format. Spider-Man has decades of audience familiarization; I'm cool allotting new books a few sentences.
Anyway, with Outpost Zero #1, the preview talks of a small town where people work the land, spend Fridays watching sports, and often lack grand aspirations because survival is so demanding. As a result, I expected this book to be analogous of modern small-town America. I was pleasantly surprised, however, to find that while there are hints of that, the book’s aspirations are much broader.
It’s actually not the plight of resource-poor regions this book is concerned with, not entirely, but rather grander philosophical questions about practicality versus ambition, both as applied to the individual and to society. Do you keep your head down and focus on your day-to-day, or do you fight to change the world? It’s a question I’ve wrestled with in my life, and I’m sure I’m not alone.
And it’s actually a question the creators float early in this first issue, before later applying it to a familiar debate about science. Do we push our economy forward in brief spurts, or do we invest in a culture of innovation and knowledge? As someone whose day job is to write about how local governments deploy innovation and technology, I found this all especially compelling, but I’m sure for those outside my (incredibly) niche industry, it will be of interest as well, given our current national climate.
Philosophy aside, this is just a well-done comic, as I’ve come to expect from the Skybound imprint. The art is top-tier, the character’s faces emotive, and the sci-fi outpost a perfect blend of familiar Earth trappings and tools of futuristic survival. The dialogue accomplishes the heavy scientific and philosophical lifting, and it rarely seems contrived, stumbling a bit during the talk between teenagers (something 98 percent of comic writers fumble).
In the end, though, it's a surprising yet logical character-driven choice that has me coming back for issue two. To say anymore would risk a spoiler.
Overall: This issue does what Skybound books do best: leaves you badly wanting to know what happens next. It seems outwardly simple, but this book is layered, character-driven, and deceptively complex. The creative team behind Outpost Zero #1 has planted some compelling seeds. 8.0/10
Outpost Zero #1 will be available July 11.