Die Hard: Year One Volume 1 Hardcover
Written by Howard Chaykin
Art by Stephen Thompson
Colors by Matthew Wilson
Letters by Ed Dukeshire Boom! Studios
Release date: March 24, 2010
There are a lot of unique art forms to North America: Jazz, Rock and Roll, Comic Books. In many ways, they make up the pop culture mythos of America. To this list I would add action movies. The eighties gave birth to a whole new genre of over-the-top, hyper-masculine action films, and reigning supreme on top of that heap is 1988’s Die Hard. With its reluctant hero, its tongue-in-cheek humour, and unforgettable action sequences, it is one of the most memorable American films of the last fifty years.
BOOM! Studios has produced its own addition to the Die Hard legacy with the Die Hard: Year One comic book series, and as an experiment in expanding the John McClane legend, it’s a roaring success.
In the chaos of America’s bi-centennial in New York City, a group of corrupt cops led by a working class revolutionary commit piracy by hijacking a yacht party. What they didn’t count on was a trainee officer and Vietnam veteran John McClane being aboard the boat.
As a Die Hard story it has all the classic elements: the elaborate hijacking plot, the high minded politics hiding a scheme for stealing cash, being “˜the wrong guy in the wrong place,’ the ball-busting superior officers riding McClane’s ass — it’s all there. In fact, you can even see the development of his character as he mocks his own macho attitude and doubts his own abilities.
This Volume 1 graphic novel is genius. Howard Chaykin‘s story follows a traditional Die Hard structure: the slow build up with the cataclysmic action sequence at the end. The dialogue is funny and there are plenty of hidden references to the future Die Hard movies. Stephen Thompson‘s art is gritty, with an old pulp style that calls back to the comic books of the period.
In fact, the most impressive part of the comic is the natural period piece feel of the work. Taking place in 1976, the setting of the comics feels like inner-city New York in the seventies. Gritty and dirty, this is not the family friendly New York of the new millennium. From the fashions to the car designs to the pop culture references, everything positively wreaks of that period. The plot structure itself is very reminiscent of the cop movies of the 1970’s. The blending of genre styles between the 70’s corrupt cop stories and slam-bang 80’s action story gives the comic a unique flair while at the same time giving it that classic Die Hard panache.
I absolutely loved this comic, and I can only hope it leads to BOOM! producing more action movie themed graphic novels. Maybe someone will finally show interest in my Under Siege prequel, where Casey Ryback defends a sushi bar from the Yakuza with a filet knife and a frying pan.