Image Comics/Skybound Entertainment
Writer: Andy Diggle
Artist: Alessandro Vitti
Hardcore follows Drake, an agent of a government program that uses advanced technology to take over the minds of criminals, terrorists, and foreign generals. Drake manipulates their bodies to assassinate their peers, though the process carries a considerable chance of damaging his mind. Despite the questionable ethics of the program, Drake is established as being a morally upright if not harsh individual. This is an interesting premise pursued in the style of an 80’s action movie. However, it’s done without even a shred of the irony that similar stories rely on. Hardcore #1 offers a lot of thrills but not much substance.
The comic’s body-swapping premise can potentially have a lot of substance. There are a number of different complex topics you can use to tackle it. But Hardcore only looks at the immediate ethical ramifications and only in the context of how Drake believes them to be preferable to drone strikes. The book could easily be a little more stimulating, but clearly it has other things in mind. This wouldn’t be as bad, except Hardcore manages to box itself in by the end of its first issue. It would have been interesting to see the hardcore program in action outside of the opening sequence mission but the book has already opted for something much narrower in scope.
The characters of Hardcore are not impressive, leaving the book to rely exclusively on spectacle. Drake is a generic action hero in every respect. His crazed rival and ex-Hardcore member Markus isn’t any more distinguishable. The other characters are entirely disposable. Hardcore’s execution does at least have Alessandro Vitti’s art in its favor. His energetic style suits an action-driven story. Harsh geometric shapes represent the blood splatters and muzzle flares. This detail adds a lot to Hardcore’s visual identity and makes the fight scenes more interesting. However, the facial expressions are pretty average. On occasion, it will feel too close to the scowling anti-heroes of the 90s.
Hardcore #1 puts action before anything else, though it plays with a premise that has the potential for a lot more. That has its place but it looks uncertain that the book has the style necessary to do something notable. Unfortunately, this issue reads like an expanded movie pitch. Specifically for the kind of vaguely science fiction, celebrity vehicle action movies that have largely fallen out of fashion. Hardcore #1 has its moments but fails to offer much of anything.
Hardcore #1 fails to offer much and quickly limits the central premise.