Hardware Volume 1

Storytellers: Written by Dwaine McDuffie, art by Denis Cowan and JJ Birch
Publisher: Milestone and DC Comic
Year of Publication: originally published 1992-1993
Page Count: 8 issues

What I learned about Writing/Storytelling:
1.  I guess this book demonstrates the basic idea of a story arc. Hardware is something of a jerk when first we meet him. By the end of volume, he is guilty about this and trying to reform himself.
2.  This book starts out with an extended metaphor about a parakeet and a glass window.  (Probably a famous scene among Milestone fans).
This establishes early on that the book is ABOUT something.
3.  McDuffie uses a low page and panel count. He seems to stick generally to five panels a page with no more than 25 words per panel. This means the book is a page turner and very readable. 

What I learned about art/storytelling:
1.  The art didn’t do much for me, but one thing I noted was they played around with the visuals a bit during some dream sequences, where they had a number of faces superimposed behind Hardware.

Recommendation: C+

Based on that opening page, I take it the book is supposed to thematically be about “glass ceilings”. Wikipedia defines glass ceiling as “the unseen, yet unbreachable barrier that keeps minorities and women from rising to the upper rungs of the corporate ladder, regardless of their qualifications or achievements.

It occurs to me that this is not exactly great material for a superhero series. There’s probably a reason that the villains in X-men build hunter killer drones to exterminate all mutants, rather than sitting around an office failing to promote mutants from lower manager positions to middle manager positions.  It’s maybe kind of hard to relate to a guy who’s biggest problem is “I’m rich, but not as rich as I should be!”

In this story, Hardware is the most valuable employee of a technology firm. He’s rich, but not rich enough, because he doesn’t get a share of royalties on his inventions.  He asks for royalties, and is turned down, because his boss is a jerk. 

So, Hardware digs into his boss’s background, hoping to blackmail him into giving him royalties, and it turns out his boss is some sort of criminal mastermind, sort of like the kingpin but less larger than life and competent.  So, conveniently, Hardware has an excuse for seeking revenge on his jerk boss.  Hardware builds a suit of armor and starts nuking his boss’s operations, while also maintaining his secret identity as a mild mannered employee of the technology firm.

His platonic friend eventually learns his story and tell him he’s a jerk:

The platonic friend is very one-note, she’s just there to tell Hardware he’s a jerk.
This book just never transcends the superhero tropes. There’s the Iron Man Sort of guy, the jerk boss Norman Osborn/ businessman Luther sort of guy, later on, there’s a multi part story where McDuffie has Hardware fight a Punisher pastiche, and sure there’ a twist on Marvel’s “The Punisher” but I’m like really, who cares?

Another problem with the book is there’s little sense Hardware is in any real danger. It’s as if you had a comic based around Iron-man fighting The Kingpin.  Iron-man  is too powerful: he could just fly over and nuke Kingpin, there’s no real competition.McDuffie co-created Icon and Static around the same time he created Hardware, and my sense is that both are better books with far more relatable characters.

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