In a world where the human mind can be hacked, how will this technology be used? I’ve often asked myself this question while daydreaming or zoning out while other people are talking. Hardcore shows a rather interesting version of this future: a future riddled with espionage and assassination.

Hardcore is written by Robert Kirkman, of The Walking Dead and Invincible fame, and illustrated by Brian Stelfreeze.  Having read a lot (but not all) of The Walking Dead and Invincible, it is clear that Kirkman has great skill with overarching story and subtle nuance to character interaction.  Like his previous work, the establishment of the world in which Hardcore’s story takes place is done with a high level of deftness and care and introduces characters and plot with comprehensive, if slightly overwhelming detail.

Issue #1 opens on a meeting between some shady businessmen. Suddenly, one of the men begins attacking the others with complete disregard for himself, focusing on the head of the company. It is then revealed that this man is being controlled by an agent employed by the Department of Defense via a “hardcore” or a computer chip planted in the subjects neck.  The chip allows the agent to bring his knowledge and physical skill sets to the new body, making for challenging adaptations. In this case, the subject is not as in shape as the agent controlling him, and the agent must compensate in order to fulfill his mission.

The main character, so far only referred to as Agent Drake, is an abrasive but generally kind person. His personality would lead us to think of him as kind of a jerk, but his actions allow us to see otherwise. He almost jokes about his job and how he gets to kill people, but he does mention the kind of information gathering and research it takes to do the job and how serious he is about it.  In addition, we see him help out his elderly neighbor by getting her groceries and see their unspoken relationship of respect and care.  A hard exterior juxtaposed with a soft heart is a trope often used in characters (and candy), but in this case is works fairly well. However, (again, like candy) if we get too much of this, it’s likely to become boring and stale. More depth to the character would be a very welcome sight in issues to come, and I’m sure that’s what we’ll receive.

Information comes at you very quickly and in large amounts in this issue. I’ve found that too much information at one time is a flaw in pacing that most issue #1’s suffer from. It’s always accompanied by a sort of patronizing feeling as you’re sat down and told, “this is how the world works now”. However, in this case, this method serves to quicken the pace. We’re told how the hardcore devices work and how the organization operates. We also get to see a glimpse of Agent Drake’s home life as well as hints of the large backstory of the organization in the relationships between Agent Drake and his old friend Markus.  There is a lot of information, but it’s broken up nicely and points towards a potential for a lot of interesting events to come.

Brian Stelfreeze’s lines are strong; excellent at showing characters expressions, spacious locations, and brutal displays of force and motion. It’s clear from this issue alone that he has a fantastic grasp on the movements of individuals of varying sizes and builds as well as a knack for extraordinarily dynamic poses and choreography.  The lines are only strengthened by the color work of Sunny Gho, who brings much life and realism to the page.  The introductory scene in the windowed meeting room is particularly amazing. Orange and yellow light streams into the room, heavily contrasting the rooms darker blue tones and lighting the characters and scene alike in a very dramatic way.

Hardcore #1 is a very strong start to the series, and if it continues how it’s going, it is sure to be a fun and interesting story. I definitely suggest giving this series a read, though with Robert Kirkman seemingly more focused on Walking Dead (fortunately or unfortunately), it may be some time before we see more of Hardcore.  I’m definitely in it for the long haul however, and am very excited to see what comes next!

About The Author

Long time fan of comic books, video games, and movies. Zander is often no where to be found because he's marathoning movies and tv shows or playing video games till all hours of the night as most disillusioned twenty-somethings are wont to do. Polar opposites are the game: action/comedies and dramas, FPS games and turn-based strategy, science fiction and historical fiction. Why pick one thing when there are so many good things?

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