By Daniel Vlasaty
This is the second edition of Hard Boiled. It's written by Frank Miller, drawn by Geof Darrow, and colored by Dave Stewart. It originally came out in 1990, but I didn’t read it back then. Most probably because I was only five years old at the time. This is the first time I've ever read it actually, although I was aware that it was a thing that existed in the world before. Just never got around to reading it. I guess.
Anyway. Hard Boiled is a story about a guy named Carl Seltz, a normal family man that works as an insurance investigator. It's also the story of Nixon, a crazy, homicidal tax collector. And it's also the story of Unit Four, a robot created by the Willeford Corporation. Unit Four was created to be an assassin tasked with killing off the Corporation's enemies. Things get a little complicated, though, because Seltz, Nixon, and Unit Four are all the same person. Or robot. Or...whatever.
I might be an asshole to say this. Or maybe in some circles, it's like blasphemy or whatever. But I've never really been a huge fan of Frank Miller. I've read some of his stuff and, while I think it's good, he's never been one of my favorites. But whatever. I know he's got die-hards out there. I'm just not one of them. And, unfortunately, the writing in this book didn’t do anything to change my mind. Not completely, anyway. But that doesn't mean it's bad or poorly written or anything. I enjoyed the book perfectly fine. It's just that the writing is almost too light. It's too fast. This could have been a crazy-complex story, but Miller has stripped it down to read like a piece of pulp fiction. Which isn't a totally bad thing, I just think he could have found some comfortable middle ground where things are fleshed out a bit more but not so much that it bogs down the pace of the story. Because the pace works. It's just that there are a lot of "silent" panels. There also isn't much here in the way of character development or explanation. Things just start happening immediately, and they don’t stop until the end. There isn't any pausing in the action of the story.
I like a story with movement. I like when things happen. But I also like it when the things that are happening on the page have meaning. I like things to happen for a reason. I want to see some character growth and change and I want it to have a purpose. In most stories this is the case. But I have a feeling that Hard Boiled was never meant to be that kind of story. And that's okay too. Hard Boiled is really just a trashy piece of pulpy goodness.
I'm going to be completely honest here. I really only came to Hard Boiled at all because Geof Darrow's name was attached to it. Like every other person in the world with a set of eyes, I LOVE Geof Darrow’s art. I love how ultra-violent it is here. I love that in places it’s weirdly sexy. I love that it’s never boring, always interesting. I love that every single inch of every single panel and page has something to look at. Hard Boiled is 27 years old and it still looks better than most comic books on the market.
Darrow’s art in Hard Boiled is a mix of futuristic sci-fi and the 1950s. And I think, overall, the look and feel of the book is a good, albeit completely exaggerated, indication of the world we live in. It’s a parody but it’s not that far off. It’s big and messy and people are fucking and fighting everywhere. There are adverts everywhere. Like the whole world, or at least the city, is corporately sponsored. It’s all just…vulgar’s the best word I can think of for it – the art, the world, the tone, the feeling. It’s all vulgar and I fucking love it.
The detail work in the art is just insane. I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone do what Darrow can do. He fills the book with a mostly these large half-page/full-page/two-page spreads that are so involved and engaging. But then there are some pages that are so full of panels that it shouldn’t work. There’s a 29-panel page and each of the panels is still super detailed. Seriously, Geof Darrow’s on another level. I’ve always thought that but it’s reassuring to see that he been operating at that level for almost three decades. Shit’s crazy, man.
Hard Boiled has a decent – but not anything super special – script. Which does not even matter in the slightest when you see the art. This book is totally worth the cover price for the art alone. When it comes to my scoring for this book, if I could separate the story from the art I would say the story’s a 3/5 and the art is definitely 5/5. So I’m going to place it safely in the middle with a 4.
Hard Boiled (Second Edition)
Dark Horse Comics