Writer: Mary Skrenes and Steve Gerber
Artist: Brian Hurtt, Lee Loughridge
Publisher: DC Comics
Oy. And it was doing so nicely too.
Faced with the abrupt and final cancellation of their series, Steve Gerber and Mary Skrenes had two choices: they could try and cram their entire projected narrative into what little space they had left, or they could think up a new resolution, offer what closure they could while giving up - out of necessity - whatever plot elements didn't fit.
Unfortunately, they went and picked Door Number One. The prize: 22 pages of cosmic incoherence that would give Grand Grant Morrison pause. See, this is the thing to remember about Hard Time: for seventeen issues, the predominant mode of the series was "prison drama", with occasional minor hints that there was something more going on. What Skrenes and Gerber do here is condense all the hints they would have spread over another ten or twelve issues, and turn it into an exposition infodump.
The problem, of course, is that this completely changes the atmosphere of the book - it's like watching Prison Break and suddenly switching to Star Trek. Last issue we had a hostage situation, prisoners conspiring against each other and Ethan caught in the crossfire; this issue we have Ethan standing in some "metaphysical museum" for pages and pages, getting updates
on every single person who's ever touched his life. As if that's not enough, we already knew most of this stuff! We knew Sheila and Ethan's lawyer were getting back together, we knew Alyssa was having tea with crazy old ladies and invisible goddesses, etc. What possible reason could there be for a recap at this late stage? We're far past the hope of new readers arriving, and there are still some pretty big questions that haven't been answered: why did Ethan go along with the "prank" that got him sent to prison? There were hints a few months back that something unspeakable happened to his best friend, clearly foreshadowing a future revelation we'll never get to see. We also don't know how and why Ethan has supernatural powers, or what happened to the girl that could have corroborated his story. These are things we should be told before the story ends.
All in all, it's a rather catastrophic train wreck. I feel I should give it points simply because it's really not the writers' fault here - the bottom fell out from under them, and they did the best they could. Sadly, that doesn't change the end result: a perfectly good series ruined by external circumstances (in this case, incompetent marketing).
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