Last month, I reviewed the first issue of The Hard Place and by the end I was hoping for more than what was given. I understand it was the beginning and attempting to establish the narrative. It did okay in introducing the readers to the characters, but there was something missing that I could not put my finger on. I am pleased to say that Doug Wagner has restored my interest with The Hard Place #2.
So what changed your mind, Dave?
Right from the start, there is more style and substance in the story. Wagner left us with a cliffhanger at the end of the first issue. AJ, just released from jail for robbing a bank, finds himself smack dab in the middle of another bank robbery. All AJ wants to do is secure a small loan to help with his dad’s business, but his past has now caught with up him. The robbers notice AJ and force him to go along with their heist. But things don’t go as planned and soon enough the police are outside waiting for the robbers. The pair of crooks take a young blonde and AJ hostage. The plan is to make their getaway in the blonde’s car, making AJ the getaway driver once again — a part of his life that he thought was behind him. The group of four jump into the car and make their escape with the cops hot on their trail.
Yay, Dave became a fan of the story!
I did enjoy this book more than the first. Wagner has gone back and added the much-needed depth that I was craving. I now have a reason to cheer for certain characters and feel invested. The tension in the story has increased a great deal as it appears AJ has faltered in keeping straight already and has fallen back into his life of crime. His best friend, a cop, is confident this isn’t true but has to act fast to get answers before his fellow officers apprehend AJ. Toss in a couple other surprises and The Hard Place #2 tops my list of books to check out this week.
I was mixed on Nic Rummel’s art in the beginning, but I have gotten used to it. The blank backgrounds in some of the panels still distract me but I have accepted it. I like that the focus is on the characters but those blank canvas backgrounds are screaming “Insert art here!” I respect the art but I enjoy seeing full panels; that’s just my personal preference. But the art doesn’t turn me off from the story being told. Charlie Kirchoff’s colors are colorful and a primary focus for me with this type of art. The visuals are done in their own unique way.
Wagner has won me back. I was a HUGE fan of Plastic. I think it’s one of my favorite books I have read this year. It was original and I need to step away in comparing it to The Hard Place. Two entirely different stories, but I caught on to Plastic so fast that I was hoping The Hard Place was going to hit me the same way. It took the second issue to get my full attention, but I am ready for what Wagner and Rummel has to offer up next.
Like what we do here at AIPT? Consider supporting us and independent comics journalism by becoming a patron today! In addition to our sincere thanks, you can browse AIPT ad-free, gain access to our vibrant Discord community of patrons and staff members, get trade paperbacks sent to your house every month, and a lot more. Click the button below to get started!