Review by Kate Sherrod
Where last week I highlighted a self-published comic that quite possibly set the new standard for unfilmability, this week I look at one that is begging to hit the big screen, even if it wasn’t published by what most die-hard comics fans consider to be a misnomer of a comics company at best, and a Hollywood wolf in superhero clothing at worst, Radical Comics.
Radical is making a name for itself largely through producing movie pitches in the form of comic books, often teaming with film industry pros to do so. Radical is not alone in attempting this, nor the first, of course; but it is arguably producing some of the best accidental comic books in the process. Warren Ellis’ and Steve Pugh’s Hotwire series, of which Deep Cut is the second installment, is a shining example of how good their comics can be.
Set in a Transmetropolitan-tinged future in which a lot of the thinking required to survive has been taken out of ordinary human hands—to the point where drugs have been developed to deliberately lower a person’s IQ—Hotwire is a cynical look at what such a future would be like if people who get themselves killed didn’t actually die. This society, you see, is haunted by “Blue Lights”—the psycho-electrical echoes of the deceased. Do not call them ghosts, however, especially not in the presence of our heroine, Detective Exorcist Alice Hotwire.
Alice is quite possibly my favorite comic book heroine of recent years. She is the kind of bratty, smart woman everyone loves to hate, and she knows it. Those IQ- dampening drugs? She confesses to a youth largely misspent on them, drunk, whooping it up with bad boyfriends and “barely sentient.” As we learn in the opening pages of Deep Cut, a close encounter with a Blue Light that ended badly is what shocked her out of this stupor. Smart and angry again, Alice finds herself employed capturing and containing those Blue Lights before they hurt anyone else.
The first four-issue miniseries, Requiem for the Dead, saw Alice getting an exceedingly reluctant new partner, Mobey, who suspected her of being the whistleblower on a police brutality case that had the entire city rioting and howling for po-po blood. Amidst the chaos, the pair wound up investigating a most unusual series of Blue Light infestations, following the clues to a maximum-security cemetery. That is not a misprint: extraordinary measures are necessary to keep the angrier, crazier and more powerful Blue Lights contained.
As this next volume opens, more cracks are showing in the city’s defenses, and in Alice’s resolve. A visitor from her past is complicating her life, and she’s well on her way to getting herself in trouble even before her new bionic arm (she lost the old one saving the city in the last go-round) is fully functional.
All of this adds up to a work I would definitely fork over some cash to see adapted to the big screen—provided some important elements are preserved, namely Steve Pugh’s color palette. Electric blues and acid yellows, poison greens and ripe reds make this a gorgeous series, even without the fanciful imagery of the Blue Lights (an intricate, swirling Asian dragon in the first series; a semi-transparent self-assembled robot in this one) or Alice’s demurely cute little outfits. I would also insist on Alice’s irascibility being preserved; she is a child of Warren Ellis in our world, and in hers, the daughter of a computer scientist who once bellowed that science-haters and medicine-dissers who point to Blue Lights as evidence that they’re right ought to “give it all back and die at age 35 like you’re supposed to.” Her bitchiness is why this writer loves her, and why I would demand its preservation.
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