Written by Robert Kirkman and Andy Diggle
Art by Alessandro Vitti and Adriano Lucas
Lettering by Thomas Mauer
Published by Image Comics
Review by David Pepose
‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10
Killing someone with a gun can be brutal. Killing them with a drone can be horrifying. But killing them by cybernetically hijacking the bodies of the people around them?
Well, that’s just Hardcore.
Robert Kirkman, Andy Diggle and Alessandro Vitti’s newest story might have the sharpest high concept I’ve seen in comics in a long time, following a shadowy black ops program armed with — for lack of a better term — telepathic bullets that allow soldiers to pilot the bodies of brothers, bodyguards, and other third parties unlucky enough to be in close proximity to their real targets. Hardcore has Hollywood blockbuster written all over it, and it’s to scripter Andy Diggle’s credit that he writes this book so cinematically, briskly us exactly the level of exposition we need about the Hardcore program — both in terms of its technical specifications as well as its inner workings.
In terms of how the Hardcore works physically, Diggle gives us specific, easy-to-follow limits — while there are some workarounds in how to hack the human body, for the most part, our hero Agent Drake is limited to the musculature (or lack thereof) that he’s saddled with on any particular mission. But Diggle quickly gets us to the meat of the conflict, as well — namely, that someone is not happy with being cut out of the Hardcore program, and winds up putting our hero in a difficult situation mid-mission. Whereas many comics are looking to reinvent the wheel, Kirkman and Diggle instead give us what we’ve already seen, but does so in such an exciting and economic fashion that you’d be hard-pressed to complain.
Artist Alessandro Vitti, meanwhile, graduates from being a dark horse at DC Comics to getting his long-overdue spotlight on a Robert Kirkman book. Vitti makes the action sequences of Hardcore look brutal and kinetic — the rendering he does in terms of conveying motion makes each punch and reversal look tense and explosive, and that also goes a long way towards this cinematic quality that this book captures so successfully. While there’s a very simplified sense of character design here — our hero is a nondescript blond guy, while the villain immediately takes a page out of Tom Hiddleston’s Loki playbook — Vitti’s able to squeak in some fun, weird worldbuilding here, particularly when we get to see Agent Drake in his unique cybernetic piloting chamber.
While some fans might demand a more iconoclastic spin on a book, Kirkman, Diggle and Vitti show us there’s nothing wrong with a good, old-fashioned blockbuster with Hardcore. If I have any reservations about this series — which otherwise seems destined for a feature film — it’s a nagging worry that the cliffhanger of this book might veer Kirkman and company away from their real hook, subbing out the potentials for body-hijacking with the more tried (and tired) Freaky Friday scenarios. But if this creative team can keep showing us different avenues for the fun technology they’ve cooked up, Hardcore could make a killing in more ways than one.