DIE HARD YEAR ONE (BOOM Studios)
Written by Howard Chaykin, drawn by Stephen Thompson
Collects Die Hard Year One #1-4
I think it’s fair to be skeptical of any and all comic book continuations of beloved movies or TV shows. Sure there’s some good ones here and there like Buffy Season 8, but many of them turn out to feel either like boring retreads of familiar material or sequels that pale in comparison to even the worst ones on film. After watching the first four Die Hard flicks in relative quickness over the past few months (I’m kind of surprised I didn’t blog about them actually) I figured checking out this prequel in comic book form might be worth the risk. I hadn’t heard anything one way or the other about the book, but I know that Howard Chaykin can turn out a pretty good yarn. So with that, plus a healthy dose of skepticism, in mind, I jumped into Die Hard Year One. And you know what? I’d put this in the Buffy list of continuations (calling them adaptations doesn’t seem accurate).
The story is set in New York City in 1976, it’s the bicentennial and the hot, dirty, corrupt city is filled with tourists. It’s also got some corrupt cops, a woman witnessing a murder and a plot to make some money dressed up as a bit of eco terrorism. Oh, it’s also got a young John McClain, who’s back from Vietnam, but now a rookie on the NYPD. In what would turn out to be the first of many similar events, McClain finds himself swept up in something much larger than he expected and has to rely on his wits and toughness to ensure the safety of innocents.
What I like most about this book is that it actually feels more like a movie from the 70s than a Die Hard movie crammed into a 70s setting. I was worried they’d try and shoehorn all these elements from the first movie into this prequel and thankfully they didn’t. There wasn’t even a “yippee ki yay,” but there were cowboy references which I thought was a really nice and subtle touch that I didn’t make the connection right away. Though it has the feel of a gritty, dirty NYC movie from the 70s, Chaykin still utilizes the comic book form by offering up narration along with showing us what McClain’s thinking here and there.
I really don’t have any complaints when it comes to this book. The story flew by at a great pace and feels like it works equally well as a comic and a Die Hard story. Stephen Thompson’s art looks great and conveys the grittiness I can’t seem to stop mentioning, though I wouldn’t say the Bruce Willis likeness is really on the page. There’s bits here and there where the eyes look exactly right, but I wouldn’t say it’s like looking at Willis circa 76. Overall, I’m okay with that and think it might have been distracting if he did really look like Willis in every panel. Either way, the art is consistent which makes the story move along well.
I went in very skeptical, but now that I’m done with Die Hard Year One I can suggest it for Die Hard fans along with people like me with a penchant for 70s flicks like Dirty Harry, Death Wish and the like.
IRREDEEMABLE VOLUME 1 (BOOM Studios)
Written by Mark Waid, drawn by Peter Krause
Collects Irredeemable #1-4
I just realized I was apprehensive about reading Irredeemable too, but for different reasons. With this book, I wasn’t really interested in reading another book about a Superman-type character gone bad because I feel like I’ve been there and done that enough times to not have to go back to that particular well. But this is Mark Waid we’re talking about here, one of the most solid comic book writers around. With the exception of his more recent Flash stuff, I can’t think of a book this guy’s written that I haven’t enjoyed. Hell, he wrote Kingdom Come, one of the most influential comic books I ever read. I love that book. So, I decided to discard my misgivings and jump right in. Once again, I was happy with the results.
And yes, the story is about a Superman-eque character, called the Plutonian going bad. Well, not really going bad, he’s already bad by the time our story picks up. Going in, I thought the book would show his decline into madness or what have you, but instead Waid flips the script a bit and makes these first four issues all about other heroes trying to figure out the Plutonians history and weaknesses to varying degrees of success. We’ve got a dandy-ish potentially intergalactic being called Qubit who has a history with the Plutonian and also seems to be leading the charge against him by sending the surviving heroes out to find the hero-turned-villain’s former girlfriend and other people he cared about to try and figure out a weakness to the ridiculously powerful character.
I really like how Waid mixes various elements with this comic. There’s the obvious superhero conventions, but more interestingly the idea of a group of heroes working under the radar and risking their lives, plus the added mysteries with people trying to figure out who the Plutonian is and what might kill him. I’m also a big fan of the fact that the story doesn’t start at the very beginning with the hero going bad, but well into his reign of craziness. Everything isn’t presented on a platter right away which adds to the mystery. I like that. In that way, the book feels kind of like Kurt Busiek’s Astro City, another comic book universe I’ve had a lot of fun with, especially as the creator plays off of well known comic-book tropes but also does some novel things with them.
I look forward to reading more Irredeemable books and seeing where Waid takes the character, whether the resistance can put a dent in the Plutonian’s seeming invulnerability and finding out the answers to some of the questions I have like why the Plutonian didn’t kill Qubit when he had the chance too. Is he just messing with him? Is there something more sinister going on? I can’t wait to find out which is good because there’s four more trades for me to get and read through.