Writer Brandon Thomas and artists Denys Cowan and Bill Sienkiewicz bring back the central figure of the Milestone line with explosive energy in Hardware: Season One #1. With colors from Chris Sotomayor and letters by Rob Leigh, this issue is a jaw shattering right-hook of a comic. Loaded with emotional socio-political appeals and class-related commentary, this is the proper way to bring a nearly-forgotten character back to life.
“Curtis Metcalf was the brightest shining star of Alva Industries, a brilliant scientist mentored by Edwin Alva since childhood…until the failures of Alva technology at the “Big Bang” disaster threatened to destroy the company, and Alva needed a scapegoat. Now Curtis is on the run from the Dakota police department…but a man as smart-and paranoid-as Curtis takes precautions. With a nearly indestructible suit of armor and remarkable inventions that he never handed over to Alva, Curtis stands determined to do much more than clear his name…he’s going to take the fight back to Alva himself!”
Writing & Plot
Brandon Thomas’s script for Hardware #1 is a textbook example of how to pack story into a 22-page comic book. Thomas manages to revamp the Hardware origin from the original Milestone series into something familiar yet still engrossing. The reintroduction of Hardware into modern comics won’t be blazing any trails, but it is a solid hybrid of classic superhero origins and modern struggles. I’ll be blunt, I have never read a Hardware comic before, or even a book from DC’s long-gone Milestone imprint. However, I feel confident that this will be a comfortable read for newcomer like myself, as well as fans of the original run.
Thomas’s style itself here is a mixture of small bits of dialogue and multi-focused narration. The perspective shifts from Metcalf and P.O.P’s (his A.I.) to the main villain, Edwin Alva. This not only gives us the angle of Curtis’s anger, but also the feigned righteousness of the establishment he is fighting.
Thomas is quick to ground Metcalf in issues at the forefront of the socio-political discourse, while digging at certain issue from a different lens then what we’re used to in mainstream comics. Many “Big 2” comic books tend to lean more into the “defeating hate with love” side of overcoming racial injustice. Thomas does not. Hardware actively returns the favor to those aiding in his oppression. There’s a righteous fury in this story that is exceptionally rare in mainstream comics, and it’s both cathartic and refreshing. Thomas also touches on the intertwining of corporate greed and how it weaponizes systemic racism. This is an abrasive, immensely effective comic that is a sincere rarity in Big 2 superhero comics. I welcome more of Thomas’s work in the future, as well as more writers who bring this perspective with them.
The return of Milestone in Hardware: Season One #1 is visually crafted by heavyweight artists Denys Cowan and Bill Sienkiewicz. Cowan’s pencils, which graced work in the original Milestone imprint, return to Hardware in their energetic glory. Cowan’s scratchy, cross-hatch heavy lines add an aggressive edge to this comic book that perfects the emotional weight of the storytelling. His animations pull us into the pages and let us feel the emotional depth of the characters we see. The inks from Sienkiewicz add dimension to this work that flows perfectly within the panels. Seeing this art is like watching the best aspects of 90’s comics come back to life with modern touches. Cowan and Sienkiewicz’s work is jagged and aggressive, but still soft in the moments where it matters.
Chris Sotomayor’s colors are rich and atmospheric. He leans towards the darker edge of shades, even during daylights sequences. I say the latter part since most of this comic takes place at night, which Sotomayor fills in with realistic color detail. The night air glows orange with the buzz of streetlights and, of course, explosions. The letters from Rob leigh take some inspired leaps. Most of the comic resides in the usual clean, contemporary font type for dialogue and narration. P.O.P.’s electronic interjections are given a more classic computer look. However, the SFX lettering is absolutely top notch, with work that becomes part of the action, blending into explosions and combat. A real kicker of a sequence is during a scene where Metcalf is speaking through a speaker (of sorts). Leigh letters this with massive, jolting red letters that look as if they’re part of the environment itself. It’s really outstanding work, and part of what makes Hardware work so damn well visually.
Hardware: Season One #1 is an earth-shattering return for a long-gone period of comics history. Brandon Thomas’s script is aggressively poignant and action-packed. It’s a refreshing take on an immensely important topic written in a manner unseen in mainstream comics. The visuals from Denys Cowan, Bill Sienkiewicz, and Chris Sotomayor are an excellent blend of 90’s jagged styling and sharp character creation. This is a stellar return for this character, and the Milestone imprint as a whole. Be sure to grab this comic when it hits shelves on 8-10!