Overview

Die Hard: Year One #5

Review

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Die Hard: Year One #5

Credits

  • Words: Howard Chaykin
  • Art: Gabriel Andrade, Jr.
  • Colors: Stephen Downer
  • Publisher: BOOM! Studios
  • Price: $3.99
  • Release Date: Jan 27, 2010

In comics, there are certain terms and phrases that are loaded with expectations. Terms like, The Death of (insert name here), Secret Origin, The Return of (insert same name here) and finally, Year One. All of these banners are similar in the fact that they say exactly what they are, i.e. a death, a beginning, and someone’s coming back. Of all of them, Year One has the most baggage and expectations.

A Year One story isn’t supposed to just be an origin story. It’s supposed to lay the foundations of a character we already know and love. It should be a peek behind the curtain to slowly reveal why they are the way they are. Some stories succeed. Some fail. In regards to Die Hard: Year One #5, we’re treated to a success, with only minor flaws that don’t deter from the issue’s overall enjoyment.

Issue number five is the beginning of a new arc and the perfect jumping on point. Trust me, I hadn’t read the previous four-issue arc before this and I was not lost. All that is pertinent to the proceedings is that Officer John McClane received a promotion at the end of the last arc and a new partner at the beginning of this one.

The pacing is very much like that of the classic films. The whole first act is a series of vignettes that introduce you to the key players. We don’t know who all of these people are, except for our antagonist, but we sit and wait for it all to come to fruition. These small pieces of story collect momentum throughout the book and more than one of them collide by the end of the issue. This is some wonderful pacing and structure by Mr. Howard Chaykin, firing on all cylinders.

Another fun device used throughout this setup is the interstitial narration and character building scenes between McClane and his new partner, Dt. Olga Cruces, placed in between the more plot driven pieces. Chaykin effectively serves two masters with success, juggling plot and character with satisfying results.

Another thing Chaykin, with heavy assistance from artist Gabriel Andrade, Jr., accomplishes is a real sense of the time. The book’s setting is New York, 1977, during the Summer of Sam. They capture the heat, the tension and the pavement pounding of pre-digital age police work. The color scheme is sun worn and the panel layouts are paced without rush, but with a building momentum. What’s also impressive is the character rendering of John McClane, looking similar to a young Bruce Willis, but not in a way that pulls you from the story. It’s very similar to how Georges Jeanty maintains his style, but still makes Sarah Michelle Gellar familiar in Buffy Season 8.

McClane and partner are given what’s considered a small assignment, when the rest of the precinct is working the Son of Sam murders. They’re charged with the discovery and apprehension of an individual (or individuals) robbing massage parlors at gunpoint.  It’s humorous, pithy, and surprisingly subdued. This is the lull before the action, where you get to spend time and get to know the players. Chaykin is able to point out to us that John is not the man he will become yet, but that same acerbic wit and tight lipped stoicism bubbles to the surface at the right time. Any other writer may have chosen to simply go with a familiar McClane over this story’s more nuanced and inexperienced one. It gives us the chance to grow with him and really gives what could have been a boring licensed property some real weight.

Licensed properties can be hit or miss, but I think we’re in the middle of a renaissance when it comes to established franchises. Studios and creators are giving their all into these adaptations, and the work really comes through on the page. Here’s hoping they can keep up the good work.

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