If you’ve ever read Vertigo series The Losers, you know that Andy Diggle has a love of action movies; it feels like if he wasn’t writing comics, action cinema would be his home. Although The Losers did make its way to the big screen, it’s interesting that none of his other creator-owned work have gone through that transition, including his latest Image comic, Hardcore.
To be fair, Hardcore is not a Diggle original. First conceived by Image partners Robert Kirkman and Marc Silvestri, who created a one-time comic for the publisher’s Skybound imprint, Hardcore focuses on a program that can turn any person into a human drone to get to targets that normal soldiers can’t. As the best soldier Hardcore has to offer, Agent Drake is suddenly stranded in a body with only 72 hours to discover who’s hijacked the Program.
While the original incarnation of Hardcore had more of a cyberpunk aesthetic, this version plays up the ideas of espionage and terrorism, whilst maintaining its Quantum Leap-ish premise of our lead character jumping from one body to the next. This book quickly establishes its premise in a fun action sequence where Drake is possessing an overweight man and finds difficulty in killing his target as the body he controls does not have the most ideal physicality. I personally would have loved to have seen this situation play out in other missions.
From its initial action set-piece, Hardcore establishes how this line of work can go haywire, which becomes the major crux of this first volume. That said, this comic does move at a quick pace and as much as the narrative tries to function very much like an action movie, Diggle rarely takes a breather. As a result, we don’t get to know the characters very well. Given his occupation, there is the potential to set up the moral ambiguity as established from the first issue, but isn’t really touched upon, whilst the “moustache-twirling” villain is not too different from the baddie of Under Siege 2: Dark Territory.
As Diggle is playing into that Hollywood blockbuster extravaganza, it helps that Alessandro Vitti embraces the big action. All five issues are littered with violent but well-orchestrated action sequences that are over-the-top and exciting. In terms of the numerous settings, Vitti balances the grit and the futurism very well, especially in the control pod of the Hardcore Program where Drake is wired up and one with the machine.
Despite its fun sci-fi premise, Hardcore never goes beyond its conventional action roots. Thankfully, its roots are well-executed and enough to buy this first volume.