Hotwire: Deep Cut #3 (Radical Comics)

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Alice Hotwire, Detective Exorcist, tries to get to the bottom of a dead soldier who kidnapped the corpse of a young woman in this final issue of Steve Pugh's latest sci-fi noir miniseries.

32 pgs., color; $3.50
(W / A: Steve Pugh, from a concept by Steve Pugh and Warren Ellis)
The concluding issue of Hotwire: Deep Cut sandwiches the story with fake ads for “Bear Claw Security Solutions” and the “Department of Homeland Enforcement.” The first is a private military company (they’d probably prefer “security contractor”) along the lines of Blackwater or KBR which offers to create “a wall of armed steel around your personnel and facilities whether they be in the eastern war zones or the urban jungle of home,” while the latter is a government agency which claims to be “the iron fist of rebuke to those who would seek to foster disobedience and disorder” and wants you to know that “We see every sparrow fall. We hear every word you say. We know where you live.”
Wow. Just who is being protected and from what? In the world of Hotwire, the military-industrial complex has become a self-perpetuating entity (just as predicted by President Eisenhower in this speech) and like a shark it’s always in search of food in the form of real or imagined threats that provide the justification for the services it offers. Bear Claw and the Department of Homeland Enforcement are two sides of the same coin: both live off the tax dollars and fears of ordinary citizens. How closely this parallels the world in which we currently live may be somewhat a matter of opinion but comics-wise, at least, we’re a long way from the values of “truth, justice and the American way” which Superman was fighting to uphold.
In the universe of Hotwire, about fifty years ago dead people stopped staying in their graves and began turning into “blue lights” who drift about the world, grazing on the electromagnetic waste of wireless devices. They’re partially controlled by suppressor towers and are mostly harmless, like eternally shuffling zombies without a taste for human flesh, but occasionally one will assume a more human form and thrust themselves into the affairs of the living. Controlling stray blue lights is one function of the Metropolitan Police Department and their star is Alice Hotwire, Detective Exorcist. She’s a loner who constantly defies authority and her main companion is Doug Bear, an AI stuffed animal she has programmed to possess an intelligence approaching her own.
As issue #3 opens, a dead soldier encased in a suit that makes him impermeable to the suppressor towers is seen carrying, horror movie-style, the body of a young woman killed in a traffic accident. He’s the product of one of the military-industrial projects gone astray and, besides battling rampant blue lights which are overrunning the city, Alice must find out what is going on with this odd couple and make some weighty decisions which require grappling with philosophical issues of life and death.
The writing in Hotwire is consistently fast-paced and this issue is no disappointment: it brings the second miniseries of the franchise to a satisfying conclusion while (naturally) leaving the door open for sequels. I love the satire as well, which is more subtle than this review might imply (although just as sharp-edged). The art is a cut above even for Radical, with believable and well-differentiated human beings set in a modern techno-world that is at once strange and familiar. There’s a definite noir quality to the odd angles and framings Pugh favors, while the action frames give the old sci-fi conventions (“Help! It’s a thing with tentacles!”) a sleek modern look. I’ll be eagerly awaiting the next miniseries because Alice Hotwire is one kick-ass gal and the world being what it is, there’s always someone out there who needs their ass kicked. You can see a preview here . | Sarah Boslaugh

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