Doug Wagner & Nicholas Nic Rummel, The Hard Place (Image Comics, 2018), $16.99, pb.
I love crime comics, but I am pretty religiously a trade-waiter these days, so I had to wait my turn to get ahold of this book, which launched in floppies late last summer. It was pretty much worth the wait—an exciting, well-crafted tale with decent characterization and idiosyncratic but effective art from Rummel. The protagonist is a recently-released getaway driver who was arrested following a car accident while escaping from his last heist—an accident in which the son of a local crime boss died. Having served five years, our hero is now prepared to go straight, but the fates have other plans. While going to the bank to secure a small business loan for his father’s auto shop, our hero finds himself caught up in a bank robbery; the perpetrators of course immediately recognize him and, to secure his cooperation as their getaway drive (something they seem to have failed to line up ahead of robbing the bank) they take a random customer from the bank hostage—a customer who turns out to be the daughter of the same crime boss whose son died in our hero’s car five years earlier.
OK. Now that I write it all out, the plot is a bit heavy on the coincidence, but the crime genre has always indulged in old school fatalism to a degree we would probably not tolerate in other genres. And clocking in at only five issues, the story has to move fast—and it does. And it works, even if it doesn’t leave one a lot to chew on once its over. I won’t spoil the end, but suffice it to say it is one of the “happier” endings you will find in contemporary crime comics, and that alone makes it a welcome reprieve from the usual fare. And Nic Rummel’s art was a really nice surprise, and a welcome change from the dominant visual style in contemporary crime comics. For crime fans, this is a no-brainer; and for those new to the genre, this would be a relatively gentle introduction.
Jared Gardner is the editor of Inks and a professor at Ohio State University, where he teaches comics, American lit, and film. His books can be found at https://www.amazon.com/Jared-Gardner/e/B001KHO9K4/