Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Die Hard: Year One #3

Hey, you remember Die Hard, right? The original, that is. Barefoot on broken glass, bad guys crashing through a cop car with several hundred feet of momentum, yippee kiyay motherfucker, badass Die Hard? Before John McClane was reduced to escorting the "I'm a Mac" guy through computer generated fireballs, ducking under sailing cabs and censoring his own catchphrase to fit within the confines of a PG-13 release. Yeah, that was a pretty good movie. Not sure if it really needed a comic book prequel, exploring the experiences and events that shaped the action hero's life as we saw it in his cinematic exploits, but that's where the overzealous actions of the merchandising department have taken us. Let's try to enjoy the ride.

Howard Chaykin is the man of the hour, writing this special peek back at a time when McClane was still a beat cop; pounding the pavement, trusting in his superiors' orders and looking at the world through much a more naïve pair of eyes. As fate would have it, though, the subtraction of several decades' worth of experience has also robbed our lead of most of his charm and charisma. Or maybe Chaykin's just written him into a terrifically boring role. Either way, the guy we're following throughout this issue has little more than a name and a badge in common with the man at the center of the big screen quadrilogy. He doesn't even look like Bruce Willis.

One thing the movies are particularly good at is getting the setup out of the way quickly and diving straight into the action. Once they've fired off a few rounds, the films loosen up and make with some surprisingly solid moments of character development amidst shattering windows and bursting C-4 packets. In that respect, Year One is once again an estranged member of the family. As the middle act of a five-issue mini series, one might expect something to be happening by this point, but Chaykin seems to have left the gearshift in neutral. When the bad guys finally show their hand in this chapter's closing pages, I was left wondering why it took two and a half issues to get there when the first film worked a very similar plot ten times more efficiently.

Mercifully, Chaykin does not lend his hand to the visuals. I can only imagine the kind of pouty lips and assless chaps that would have adorned McClane's wife-to-be in this issue. As it is, he's written her into wearing one of the more ridiculous outfits in recent memory. Dressed in a head-to-toe spandex outfit patterned after a star in the US flag, complete with knee-high white leather boots, she dons a pea green mumu and is suddenly rendered incognito to the pedestrians surrounding her. Stephen Thompson's renditions of mid-70s New York are serviceable, if not era-appropriate. I particularly liked his effective use of halftone shading, and his style is reminiscent of Frank Cho or Adam Hughes although he's clearly not at their level. There's just nothing here to convince me that this story is set in 1976, rather than the present day, and the cast's lackadaisical body language and facial expressions seem to imply they're just as disinterested in this plot as I am.

This comes across as a completely unrelated story that was merely repurposed and repackaged to take advantage of the Die Hard property, and not a very good one at that. Chaykin's cast moves and acts like a flock of robots, the villains' master plan doesn't make any sense, McClane doesn't have a reason to be there, and I don't have a lot of sympathy for the victims at the heart of the matter. Fans and critics alike will have no reason to rejoice this one. Skip it.

On a scale of 1 to 10, where 1 is poor and 10 is amazing...
Overall Score: 1.5

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