Thursday, September 4, 2014

The H.A.R.D. Corps #6 and #7 (Classic Valiant)

The H.A.R.D. Corps is a superpowered corporate mercenary strike team, with the goal of taking down Toyo Harada, an evil supervillain of extraordinary power. Team member Shakespeare is off-duty for a couple of days, catching up with an old war buddy, but goes missing, and it's up to the rest of the HARD Corps (Gunslinger, Hammerhead, Flatline and Superstar) to find out what happened to him. They soon realize that Shakespeare is a prisoner in a compound run by a small army of aliens, who are scavenging technology as they patiently wait for a future invasion force to come to Earth...

These two issues are mostly just action, but are entertaining, and have well-rounded characters, so I don't mind that the plot isn't exactly Shakespearean for this story. What there is is very good!

A problem with this story that rears up in #7 is a pretty big one-Show, don' tell! There are three moments within twenty pages where characters say the offscreen thing they've just done instead of the comic actually showing us it! A really unbearable result of this is that there is nothing in-between Issue #6's cliffhanger, and the start of #7-The characters got out of the fix offscreen!

The H.A.R.D. Corps is always an easy series to get into, as the dialogue is nicely accommodating for new readers. This issue, for example, dialogue at the start of #6 naturally mentions what Sam did last issue and that the team is now frosty towards him because of it.

The characters are all likeable, and the one to get developed nicely this story is Shakespeare*, as his past friendship with one of the story's villains is very well written!

*He may be a bookish type, but you do not mess with Shakespeare, even if he's greatly weakened, because he will decimate you.

Director Heydrich isn't exactly a majorly developed character at this point, basically just being the M stand-in for the HARD Corps team. This changes later in the series, as he gets even shadier, but for now he's just a guy. As for Ellen (Softcore), we know nothing about her, but her dialogue over this series has gone a little way to rounding her out. I wouldn't say she's a fully fleshed out character, but she's not a cardboard cutout.

While the human villain to this story is very well-written, the other villains are the other downfall of this storyline. Recurring Valiant Comics enemies the spider aliens are always incredibly easy to kill (I have no idea how they consider themselves to be predators and humans merely prey when regular people are fully capable of accidentally dismembering these aliens with bare hands!), and therefore hold no threat. As for their evil leader chick, she is evil, and that's all there is to her.

The artwork here is very good! Bonus points for actually going to the effort of showing frosty breath for characters in one scene in the snow. Another part isn't so good though-The scars on Aaron sometimes look like MS Paint airbrush, and some faces here and there in #7 look a bit awkwardly drawn. The cover to #6 is very good, showing stuff that actually happens in the comic, and is a decent hook to draw readers in. #7's cover is meh. I'm not sure why, but whenever I look at it, it just doesn't interest me. Weird.

The panel layout for these issues is actually pretty bad given their size, meaning there are many four-panel pages, but HARD Corps is one of the only Valiant series' that could successfully tell a complete story in twenty pages, so the layout doesn't affect anything negatively here. Another layout issue is in #6, where there's a splash page at the start that's just of an aliens face!Wasteful much? On the subject of splash pages, I don't get why Valiant felt they always had to have them as the title pages of their comics!

One completely random thing is what Hammerhead says in one part-'kin ay. That's meant to be Fucking A. The comics code didn't exist anymore, Valiant-You can swear if you want to! Apparently wanton violence and gore is fine for Valiant, but swearwords are verboten.

By the way, Issue #6 is another Valiant comic I own in real life rather than Comixology (hence why all the screenshot's I've taken are from #7, and there's no cover for #6 pictured), so there's something random from the pages of my copy that I'd like to talk about. There's an ad teasing the introduction of new HARD Corps team member Hotshot, saying "She's not just one of the boys-Hotshot joins the HARD Corps...and the team will never be the same!"...except that it totally will, because nothing is made of the fact that she's a woman, nor does her introduction do anything to fracture or  the team-They just happen to get a new member, who's a woman.

Due to its 'show, don't tell' problems, these are the weakest issues so far from this series next to the first two, but they're still HARD Corps, so they're still highly entertaining action fun, with great characters to boot! Highly recommended!

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