Writers: Mary Skrenes and Steve Gerber
Artist: Brian Hurtt
Publisher: DC Comics
Gerber and Skrenes have piled so much junk on my head that I feel like doing a Carmen Miranda impersonation:
I'm Chiquita Comica
And I'm here to say
Finales must be written
In a certain way
When they're stuffed with crap
And really boring too
That's when they really suck
And are the worst for you!
God, I don't even know where to begin. When DC cancelled this series with virtually no lead time, it was pretty obvious that readers of Hard Time wouldn't be getting a proper ending. Best-case scenario, we'd get closure. It's not like impromptu conclusions haven't sometimes turned out okay: I'm thinking here of Will Pfeifer's H-E-R-O or Ed Brubaker's Deadenders, and other series that had the rug pulled out from under them but still managed to end well.
Hard Time does not end well, and does not provide the best-case scenario. What we get is a "49 Years Later" jump (ha bloody ha), and twenty pages of Ethan being questioned by his parole commission. He tells them the truth about everything that's happened and everything we didn't get to see (including the use of his powers), they think he's crazy and say so repeatedly, and then he gets out of jail. The end.
Most of what Ethan delivers in summary doesn't even make sense on its own terms: apparently the attempt to get him a retrial failed because of pictures from jail that showed him bloody and messed up from the Cutter incident... but didn't the whole civil rights thing begin with a poster of Ethan looking like he was about to discover the ugly side of yaoi? And the board members call him a mass murderer even though that's not why he was sent to prison, and it's common knowledge he didn't directly kill anyone. Basically, the whole thing is a farce - everyone makes fun of crazy old Ethan to underscore his powerlessness, and then they cut him loose anyway. Then he gets on a boat to meet his friend Andy in Zihuatanejo. Oh, wait, that's Shawshank Redemption. This story ends with Ethan leaving jail
and getting into a car with someone we don't see. Ethan says "Hey", the driver says "Hey", and they ride off. That's it.
As if this wasn't bad enough, Gerber and Skrenes make some ridiculous decisions when it comes to what information to convey: did we really need to know about what happened to Arturo and Mrs. Teasbury? As opposed to finding out why Ethan ever went along with Brandon's plan? Or the significance of Kaga Na Yusha and Ethan's powers? All this was set up in the first issue of Season Two, and promptly forgotten about. Inez is mentioned towards the end of this issue, so clearly we were supposed to find something out at this stage..., but apparently it's more important that we know all about Cindy's love life and Alyssa Nichols.
This finale is just disrespectful to every reader who had followed the series thus far. It's fair enough to say that cancellation was abrupt, and that this issue would have felt rushed and congested under the best circumstances. But that doesn't excuse the writers from at least trying to end things properly in the space available. They owed the people who'd been buying this series at least that much.
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