Hotwire: Requiem for the Dead #1-2 (Radical Comics)

hotwire-header.jpgA kick-ass babe tracks down the truth in a technologically advanced futurescape crafted by 2000 AD artist Steve Pugh with a little help from Warren Ellis.




32 pgs. each, color; $2.99 each

(W & A: Steve Pugh)

One of several variant covers to Hotwire #1 by Steve Pugh. Click for a larger image.Hotwire: Requiem for the Dead, a four-issue comic series by writer and artist Steve Pugh from a story by Warren Ellis, carries the Radical Comics trademarks of a high-concept story incorporating philosophically interesting ideas complemented by full-color art on glossy paper. Like the Radical series City of Dust: A Philip Khrome Story, Hotwire is distinguished by unity among its elements and excellent execution of all aspects of graphic storytelling, demonstrating why Radical was fittingly honored with the 2008 Diamond Comic Distributors’ Gem Award as Best New Comic Book Publisher of the Year.

Hotwire takes its name from its principal character: Alice Hotwire is a Detective Exorcist in a near future world (might be England, judging from the slang and the origins of the series’ creators) menaced by ghosts or "blue lights" who feed on electromagnetic waste of wireless communications. Rich neighborhoods are protected by suppressor towers meant to keep the blue lights away, but recently the towers seem to have stopped working and Alice is working overtime trying to figure out what’s happening, and to find new ways to contain the damage and repel the invaders. She’s an imperfect heroine: overly bright and tactless, excellent at her job but unpopular among her co-workers, who find her hard to get along with and believe she leaked a video of police brutality which has sparked riots in the poorer neighborhoods of the city. And did I mention that she’s a kick-ass babe as well? No surprise there: while future worlds seem to be stocked with men of all sizes, shapes and age groups, I have yet to see a leading female character not blessed with a figure (and revealing clothing) which could stop traffic at rush hour.

One of several variant covers to Hotwire #2 by Steve Pugh. Click for a larger image.The world of Hotwire is an interesting blend of the familiar and the technologically futuristic: the landscape could represent any large and somewhat run-down city today, the hospital waiting rooms are still furnished with uncomfortable plastic chairs, and male detectives still loosen their neckties to express their weary, manly sexiness. But all kinds of cool new electronic communications devices and weapons which exist alongside the more familiar technology and old crimes don’t go away so much as they get updated. One early arc concerns a character who is a neighborhood hero for providing jobs to undocumented workers, who smuggle blue lights instead of drugs: unfortunately, just as cocaine-filled condoms can rupture and kill the mule who ingests them, blue light containment casks can fail, causing the ghost to burst out of the smuggler’s body. The cast of characters around Alice will be familiar if you’ve ever seen a cop show on television: they include a straight-arrow partner, curmudgeonly coroner, and office-bound city commander who has no use for hotshots who bring bad publicity to the department.

Hotwire’s art is shiny and techno-y: working in digital paint, Pugh favors a low-key, almost-monochromatic palette for most of his frames, using touches of red and yellow as highlights. The action frames seem to fairly leap off the page, and the combination of realistic detail and fantastic futurism complement the two aspects of the story. The blue lights are appropriately scary: translucent blue and green and much larger than life, they float above the scene like giant clouds in semi-human form, when they’re not assuming other shapes like the amazing Chinese dragon which appears in #2.

Click here and here for previews of  issues #1 and 2 respectively, courtesy of Comic Book Resources. | Sarah Boslaugh

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