The Hard Place has been a mixed bag for me up to this point. I am a fan of Doug Wagner’s work. I fell hard for his last series Plastic, involving a serial killer trying to rescue his kidnapped sex doll. What? Yup, you read that right, go out and pick up that trade, because it is so damn good! But moving on, I am here to talk about Wagner’s bank robbery tale The Hard Place. My expectations were high when I grabbed the first issue, but I’ve been teetering back and forth on how I feel about the story. Thankfully, Wagner just stepped his game up in The Hard Place #4!
Dave, things went sour for AJ last issue.
The Hard Place #4 starts out with a scene showing what could have happened at the end of The Fast and the Furious if Wagner wrote it. We finally witness everything that unfolds during the fatal car crash involving AJ and Sergei that claimed Sergei’s life. I have given Nic Rummel grief about his artwork in the past issues, but the car sequence combined with Charles Kirschoff’s colors is one of the best showcases of his work since The Hard Place began.
And yes, I consider taking a bullet in the head a little more than sour. Indeed, AJ was shot and left for dead by the bank robbers, Anton and Z. An interesting plot twist to say the least, because I never know what Wagner might have up his sleeve. But AJ is alive, not as well, but you can only expect as much after taking a bullet to the dome. Now there’s the matter of finding the two assholes who still have Alex and rescue her.
Although it took four issues to achieve, I now care about AJ and his well-being. Wagner takes us deeper into AJ’s troubled past with the dreaded crime boss, Sidorov, as well as his father. Sidorov goes to AJ, tells him he is going to give him one more chance because he hasn’t been the father he should have been all these years. He wants his daughter back in his arms. Even though Sidorov is an asshole, I was pleased to see his character turn. Last issue he didn’t give a damn about his daughter.
So its good?
Yes! The Hard Place #4 is back on the right track. Every other issue has been hit and miss for me. I thought the first was decent, but wanted more. The second issue really caught my attention. The third issue had me like “WTF?” Especially when the robbers are looking to escape the city but take the time to shoot at the cops that have zero clue they are driving past them. I get crazy is crazy. These robbers aren’t in the right frame of mind, but random madness like that crippled the story momentarily and really bothered me. But this issue is by far the best Wagner has written up to now. I would have appreciated learning more about AJ’s past in an earlier issue.
As I said, Rummel’s artwork is on point at the beginning of the issue. I still squint at the half empty panels with judgement, but by now, I’m used to it and don’t expect it to change. It isn’t horrible artwork at all, just not what I’m into. A good example is a panel inside of a car. The windshield is all blue. Life isn’t blue, there is an outside world, and I like to see the details. I like Kirschoff’s colors but feel his potential is limited due to the artwork.
Despite a couple of slow and head-scratching moments, The Hard Place has been an interesting take on a generic bank robbery tale. Wagner has stepped up the character game in The Hard Place #4 and with one issue to go, I expect Wagner to go all guns blazing on the final issue. If you are a fan of Wagner’s work, it’s a given that you have to pick it up and give The Hard Place a shot.