Five years ago, A.J. Gurney was the most infamous wheel-man among the gangs of Detroit. He loved driving fast cars even more than he loved building them and he was brilliant at both. If you needed a driver for a heist or a robbery, A.J. was your man.
Like most young crooks, A.J. got cocky and screwed up. Unlike most young crooks, A.J. wants nothing more than to go straight. It was a miracle that he survived the post-robbery accident that flipped his car and killed his partner and A.J. doesn’t plan to let his life go to waste once his time is served.
To that end, A.J. has three things he plans to do once he is out of prison. First, get a decent meal. Next, square things with his former boss and make sure it’s crystal clear that he’s out of the game. Finally, he wants to move back in with his mechanic father and spend the rest of his life in the slow-lane, fixing cars.
Life is rarely so simple or accommodating, however. A chance trip to the bank to apply for a loan to save his dad’s business will plunge A.J. back into the trouble he was desperately trying to avoid, right between a rock and a hard place.
The first thing readers are likely to notice about The Hard Place is the artwork. Nic Rummel sports a style that just screams “street” and lends itself well to the gritty aesthetic of Doug Wagner’s script. The colors by Charlie Kirchoff balance out the original pencils and inks perfectly, leaving every page of the finished artwork looking like something from off the wall of an inner-city mural.
It’s a shame that the solicitation text for The Hard Place #1 spoils the plot of the first issue and a bit more besides. Despite all the “ex-con trying to make good” cliches that inevitably pop up as the setting is established, the book immediately establishes A.J. Gurney into a likable protagonist. This first issue is a little light on action, though it’s made clear early on that this is only the calm before the storm.
I still suspect The Hard Place will prove a smoother ride once collected in trade-paperback format. Not much happens considering this is the first part of a five-chapter series and it may be maddening to read this story in a monthly format. Then again, with a strong concept and artwork to match it, The Hard Place will doubtlessly please those who enjoy The Fast and The Furious movies or comics like Initial D.