You know how the first fifteen to twenty minutes of action movies tend to suck, as stories are set up and characters are introduced? Welcome to the first issue of “Die Hard: Year One,” which fulfills the same purpose, except does so in a sloppier, more forced fashion. In a movie, the camera focusing on a woman for a second or two too long may provide a hint that she will play an important part later in the film. Devoting narrative captions and an entire page to said woman in a comic book here is a pretty big sign that, yes, she will play a role later in the story.
This first issue is a chore to read not because it sets up the plot and introduces characters, but because Howard Chaykin does so using unnecessary captions that make the pace slow to a crawl. He obviously understands that comics are different from film, so he doesn’t stick to the same storytelling techniques from the “Die Hard” movies, but his narration is grating and sucks all of the life out of the story and the characters. Read the preview pages with the captions and then do it again, skipping them and see if you lose any necessary information.
I went back and read this issue again, ignoring all of the captions, including McClane’s and, aside from one scene near the end of the issue, very little information was lost. A few specific details about characters that could easily be worked into dialogue are left out, but nothing more. Even John McClane’s narration tells us little that isn’t already communicated in his interactions with his training officer and citizens. Chaykin opts to spend the issue telling us what’s important and what we need to know instead of simply showing us, and trusting the reader to pick up the necessary details.
Overwriting isn’t the only problem as the plot already looks horribly convoluted with a half dozen characters introduced in short one- or half-page scenes that exist only so these characters have some face time now, and so Chaykin’s overwrought captions can pontificate on their lives. While it’s difficult to tell which scenes are essential now, that’s also mostly because it’s hard to discern what the actual plot of this series is. This issue is all set up that it doesn’t communicate what the story is or how it relates to John McClane yet.
Since this comic is a “Die Hard” book, most readers have tuned in to see a young rookie John McClane in action and, even with his narration, not much is given. We do get one scene where he stops a pickpocket, but he hasn’t been drawn into the larger plot yet, which is unsatisfying in this first issue.
Stephen Thompson’s art is very nice looking, but doesn’t always seem suited to the subject matter. While he depicts people standing around quite well, his figures in motion look very posed and stilted. Since this issue isn’t too heavy on the action, it’s not too problematic but it could drag down future issues. His facial expressions and depictions of body language are very strong, though. He’s obviously not using a Bruce Willis likeness, so his interpretation of the character may raise some eyebrows, but I think it works, especially with the rest of his art.
A disappointing debut, “Die Hard: Year One” #1 falls victim to overwritten captions that slow the issue down, while the plot doesn’t actually get going until the final pages. There’s, honestly, not a lot here that says that the second issue is a must read. Worst of all, the tone here doesn’t match up with that of the “Die Hard” movies, and isn’t that the point of this comic?