Think Die Hard. Think exploding skyscrapers. Think over-the-top terrorist attacks. Think tension. Think excitement. Think… a meandering and painfully clichéd depiction of 1970s New York?
Even at a basic level, this venture seems somewhat ill-guided. Either the title of the miniseries bears no relation to its content, or writer Howard Chaykin has decided that a story taking place across twelve months is a good way to mimic the frantic pace of the film franchise. Moving from name to content sees no improvement, with this first issue being mainly devoted to introducing the reader to a large cast of interchangeable unpleasant figures. McClain has only a faint presence amongst the cast of depressingly misogynistic misfits on display here, and it’s hard to imagine anyone buying the second issue out a desire to see what happens to the figures introduced here. Stephen Thompson acquits himself reasonably well in storytelling, but never quite overcomes the problem of so many of the cast wearing identical uniforms. The main visual clue for McClain’s identity on-page is that he’s the only cop who isn’t pictured assaulting women.
It’s a remarkable achievement that in an issue which is frequently narrated from McClain’s perspective, there’s almost no characterisation devoted to the man himself. We learn nothing about what makes him tick, and it’s hard to see how this story will turn out to be a formulative experience when there’s almost nothing for the character we know to be formulated from. Only a set of quotation marks separates McClain’s account of the time from the more general narrative voice, so it’s easy to fall into the trap of assuming that the rookie cop has omnipotent knowledge of a handful of apparently unrelated figures from across the city.
The book is a simply baffling concept. There’s certainly a place in the market for a loving recreation of a much-loved eighties action film, but Die Hard was its own origin story. The film was the tale of an ordinary man becoming a hero. It’s hard to think what story Chaykin sees as needing telling. The story of how John McClain became an ordinary man?