Royal Nonesuch reviews HOTWIRE vol. 1: Requiem for the Dead, out next week from Radical Comics!
Credits & Solicit Info:
In the near future, the living and the dead share the same space. Known as “Blue Lights,” the dead are mostly harmless, roaming the streets as mindless drones. But when the Blue Lights start showing up as ghostly weapons of mass destruction, Metro Police has only one person for the job: She’s Alice Hotwire, Detective Exorcist. she’s the best there is at reining in the Blue Light beat…and she’s the only one who can save the city from certain destruction.
This deluxe trade paperback edition collects, for the first time, the four-issue miniseries in a special “director’s cut” edition that includes creator notes and early character designs that evolved into the Hotwire: Requiem for the Dead series. This edition also contains newly remastered tales from Alice Hotwire’s past, featuring never-before-seen pages written by Warren Ellis (Planetary, Transmetropolitan) and amazing newly painted artwork; an extensive gallery showcasing the evolution of the character; a spotlight gallery of artwork from celebrated artists Steve Pugh, Stjepan Sejic (Witchblade), Jelena Djurdjevic (The Immortal Iron Fist) and Garry Leach (Judge Dredd, Marvelman); an in-depth interview with co-creator Steve Pugh as well as a dust jacket showcasing an all new cover by Steve Pugh.
136-Pages, Full Color, Trade Paperback
Creators: Steve Pugh & Warren Ellis
Based on a story by: Warren Ellis
Writer & Illustrator : Steve Pugh
Cover Art: Steve Pugh
Letterer : Steve Pugh
"I keep the peace between the jealous dead and the ungrateful living." --Alice Hotwire
Any comic book concept conceived even in part by Warren Ellis will have his fingerprints all over it, no matter how far away from him it ultimately ends up. He has such a strong auctorial presence that it's hard to think about him not actively involved in a particular piece. Still, with HOTWIRE, Steve Pugh does a fine job of going it alone.
HOTWIRE was originally meant as a collaboration between Ellis and Pugh in the early 1990's for Kevin Eastman's now-defunct Tundra Publishing, and it has been resurrected by Pugh for up-and-coming publisher Radical. This is Pugh's comics debut as both writer and artist. The premise certainly feels like an Ellis comic. It takes a handful of genre tropes, mixes them together and filters them through a science fiction filter to present some vaguely possible near-future scenario. Still, Pugh has evened out enough of the rough edges and refined a lot of the character work just enough that it feels like his own singular vision. The first trade paperback of the series features some early artwork and designs, as well as a color version of a HOTWIRE short story originally published a few years ago in black and white. This artwork, along with an interview with Pugh contained in the book, illustrate the evolution of HOTWIRE as a concept. Gone is the decidedly Ellis-style Alice Hotwire, with her cynical self-absorption and hard-drinking and smoking attitude, and in her place is Pugh's conception of the character, which casts her as an intelligent, rational, and ultimately frustrated woman who doesn't suffer fools lightly, but still feels like more of a complete character than a type.
Pugh's approach to the artwork is another departure from the original designs. He has gone from a cartoony edge reminiscient of late 1980's British sf comics to a fully realized, hyper-detailed painted look. It lends a great amount of immediacy to the story. The world has so much weight and depth that the reader feels like he or she is right there in the thick of things with the characters, rather than observing the events from the safety of narrative distance. 3D may be the big thing in Hollywood right now, but the look of HOTWIRE is truly immersive. Everything really pops out at you, without the aid of dorky glasses. This can lead to a bit of an unsettling effect at some points, since the terrifying ghosts, chilling creatures and cold, ominous machines all look so pants-shittingly real.
The story is a fun mix of delirious action adventure, spooky ghost story and cold rationality. Never is this mix more potent than in the delightfully manic scene in which Alice charges into battle with a spectral Chinese dragon. It's a very dense read as well. You can really spend a lot of time with this book. It covers a lot of ground in a rather small space. Not only establishing the world, characters, and inciting incidents, HOTWIRE is able to delve into character backstories and fill out the tale with a side story about police protests that ends up circling around and tying into the main story. All this, along with setting up future stores, isn't bad for four issues. The action is constant, and always compelling. This is a great piece of work, and a series to keep an eye on.