Hotwire: Requiem for the Dead #3/Shrapnel: Aristeia Rising #5 (Radical Comics)

hotwire-header.jpgGrim alternate futures and lushly painted art highlight these two releases from Radical Comics.

 

 

Hotwire: Requiem for the Dead #3 (Radical Comics)

32 pgs., color; $2.99

(W : Warren Ellis and Steve Pugh; A: Steve Pugh)

 

Shrapnel: Aristeia Rising #5 (Radical Comics)

52 pgs., color; $2.99

(W: Nick Sagan and M. Zachary Sherman; A: Bagus Hutomo)

 

This week I’m taking a break from manga to look at a pair of Radical Comics releases which take a decidedly grimmer view of life. In Hotwire: Requiem for the Dead #3, detective exorcist (don’t you love the cool jobs future heroes always seem to hold?) Alice Hotwire is back on the job battling the blue-lights, spirits who feed on electromagnetic waste. Because the blue-spirits can pose a menace to humans of the living variety, cities are protected by giant suppressor towers which are meant to keep them out but don’t always do their job: the blue-lights have found ways to damage them and penetrate the supposedly secure perimeter.

The cover to Hotwire #3 by Steve Pugh. Click for a larger image.Hotwire #3 has Alice and her team investigating a maximum security cemetery: just as we have special mental institutions for the criminally insane, in Hotwire’s future world they have special high-security cemeteries for the spirits of murderers and other dangerous characters. Alice discovers that some of the imprisoned blue-lights have acquired new destructive powers (so they’re now appropriately called "ghost bombs") and are planning a jail break, which she attempts to foil by flooding the facility. But while her team evacuates she lingers behind to have a final confrontation with a child ghost-bomb and the issue ends on an old-fashioned cliffhanger designed to whet your appetite for issue #4.

Artist Steve Pugh is a master at creating the illusion of movement, no small feat since a comic is basically a series of 2-dimensional pictures, and this action-packed issue really shows off his talents. Hotwire is fully painted, as are all Radical Comics releases, and Pugh creates an attractive yet menacing future world while incorporating more color than is used by some other Radical artists. I find the story in this series a bit difficult to follow but it’s so consistent in that regard (meaning that I’ve been confused from issue #1) that maybe I should just give up and consider omitted explanations to be a stylistic trait. A preview of Hotwire #3 is available at http://www.comicmonsters.com/modules.php?name=Forums&file=viewtopic&t=11230&f=1.

The cover to Shrapnel #5 by Marko Djurdjevic. Click for a larger image.Shrapnel: Aristeia Rising also features a female heroine: in this case Samantha Vijaya, a Marine veteran in voluntary exile on Venus, the last outpost of freedom in a solar system otherwise colonized by the Solar Alliance of Planets. If you’ve been following the series, you know that Samantha used to work for the Alliance, a past she has done her best to conceal, and that she was hesitant to re-enter the world of combat. But after the Alliance invaders offered the Venusians a deal similar to that presented to Queen Lili’uokalani of Hawaii in 1893 by the Committee of Safety (more descriptively known as the Annexation Club) she had no choice but to leap into the fray.

Issue #5 opens in the bloody brutal hell of a battle which has been raging for ages (months? years? it’s easy to lose track of the time in an alternative universe). Despite the modernistic weaponry, the dark sepia tones of the battlefield recall more the dusty plain described in Pope’s translation of Homer than the intergalactic battles of the Star Wars franchise.

The dialogue is rudimentary and tinged with military jargon—bogey, roger that—while the real focus is on the art, which is spectacular and includes several two-page splashes (and at 52 pages, you certainly get your money’s worth in that department). Hutomo conveys a feeling of being within the battle with all the terrors and uncertainties that implies rather than observing it from afar and Sherman brings this story arc to a satisfying conclusion (reportedly two more are in the works). A trailer is available from http://www.radicalcomics.com/ and a preview at http://comicbookresources.com/?page=preview&id=2548&disp=table. | Sarah Boslaugh

 

 

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