A classic Milestone character has just had their incredible origin reimagined in a shocking new fashion in Milestone Returns.
WARNING: The following contains spoilers for “The Big Bang” from the pages of Milestone Returns: Infinite Edition Zero by Reginald Hudlin, Denys Cowan, Nikolas Draper-Ivey, Bill Sienkiewicz, Chris Sotomayor, ChrisCross, Juan Castro, Wil Quintana, and Andworld Design, on sale now.
Milestone Comics has a long pedigree of incredible stories and fan-favorite characters, and the most recent incarnation of its heroes just arrived in the form of Milestone Returns. Not only are icons such as Static Shock coming back in a major way; they’re being reimagined in ways that are poignant in their relevance to today’s real-world issues. Among these characters being introduced to the modern era is one of comics’ most high-tech heroes, Hardware, whose origin was just given a darker twist than ever before.
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Much like the original incarnation of the Milestone Universe, the inciting incident for most of Dakota’s heroes and villains is known as the “Big Bang.” What had been the culmination of a gang war ending in those involved being exposed to experimental chemicals has now been given a more of-the-moment revision. The “Big Bang” is the unfortunate outcome of an anti-police brutality protest. When the crowd refuses to turn away, the police open fire with an untested chemical produced by Alva Industries, leading to those exposed being imbued with amazing and terrifying powers. Not only has the incident created a new generation of superpowered individuals with little to no control over their abilities, but it’s also created a PR nightmare for Alva, which is the beginning of the latest version of Hardware.
When he was first introduced in 1993’s Hardware #1 by Dwayne McDuffie and Denys Cowan, Curtis Metcalf was a child prodigy whose skill did not go unnoticed by the famous inventor Edwin Alva, the corrupt founder of Alva Technologies. Alva paid Curtis’ way through school, paving the way for him to succeed in every aspect of his life before landing a high-paying job at Alva Technologies. There Curtis developed tech that would go on to make millions for the company, as well as developing a fondness for Edwin Alva personally.
Unfortunately, Alva saw Curtis as little more than a cog in the machine, even going so far as to berate and belittle him when he dared ask for a share of the profits his inventions had generated. Contractually bound to Alva alone, Curtis continued working for his former mentor while also putting his brilliance to good use by developing a high-tech suit of armor for himself. Taking the mantle of Hardware, Curtis fought crime in Dakota by night, usually bringing down the smaller operations headed up by Alva himself.
The current version of the character shares a lot in common with his predecessor, still being a former child prodigy of astounding intellect who works for Alva Industries. This time, however, he isn’t verbally assaulted by an elder businessman, but rather physically assaulted by the police. After seeing the news of what had happened at the protest, Curtis was certain that his head would be the one on the chopping block, as his position at the company also made him the public face of it. Though he didn’t approve of the chemicals used, he is the one being held responsible, and he’s ready for the heat. It seems that Curtis has still created the Hardware armor, this time in anticipation of things going sideways as opposed to in reaction to them.
When the police open fire on him while he is still unarmed, the bullets fly off of his suit before he runs his attackers off. That his identity is no secret this time around will certainly be a game-changer for Hardware, though that isn’t a bad thing, especially if this sets the tone for the rest of Milestone’s triumphant return to the mainstream.
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