By Drew Baumgartner
This article contains SPOILERS. If you haven’t read the issue yet, proceed at your own risk!
The Hard Place is like a nested doll of hooks. “Former gangbanger tries to stay clean after prison” is a fine premise, but Doug Wagner and Nic Rummel pushed that a step further in their first issue, asking what happens when that gangbanger is forced back into the game at gunpoint. Issue 2 cleverly twists the knife further, making AJ’s co-hostage the daughter of his psychopathically violent boss, such that the presumption that AJ is complicit in the robbery doesn’t just pit him against the cops, but the entire criminal underworld.
It’s a high-concept premise if ever there was one, but Wagner and Rummel ground it in procedural detail. We’re privy to AJ’s thoughts as he realizes the robbers plan on killing him and Alexandra. We’re privy to Don’s investigation as he pours over the security footage. My favorite detail, though, is watching AJ improvise his way out of a high-speed chase:
It might even be a shade too clever, but it certainly fits with AJ’s legendary status as a wheelman.
If details are this issue’s strength, it’s weakness is everywhere those details are lacking. Which, unfortunately, is much of the issue. Most of the settings, from AJ’s dad’s living room to the warehouse AJ and the robbers hide out in to the larger setting of the city of Detroit, lack any real specificity. It doesn’t make for a bad read, by any means, but the missed opportunity for texture — something Wagner and Rummel show real skill with at moments — leaves it feeling half-finished. There’s so much space here for them to use setting and props and costuming to develop character, mood, and plot but too much of that space is left empty.
The conversation doesn’t stop there. What do you wanna talk about from this issue?