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Playback STL: Steve Pugh Brings Back Cyberpunk Ghost Detective Alice Hotwire

From Playback STL, written by Sarah Boslaugh

Since I’ve become a devotee of Stieg Larsson’s Millenium Trilogy I can’t help noticing the parallels between Lisbeth Salander (she of the dragon tattoo) and Alice Hotwire, star of the eponymous comic series created by Steve Pugh and Warren Ellis. Both are brilliant outsiders, stubborn as hell, disinclined to cooperate with authority figures, and attractive in a punk sort of way. Even better, both ride a motorbike and can really kick ass should the occasion demand it, two characteristics which I think should be incorporated in all female heroines from now on.

Alice has been on an extended vacation (spent mainly playing video games in her apartment, for reasons which will be revealed in this issue) from her duties as a Detective Exorcist, but she is summoned back to sort out some Blue Lights (ghosts) implicated in a multi-car pile-up. Much as the detective force resents Alice for being smarter than them (and letting them know it), they also know that she’s the best they have when it comes to Blue Lights.

This issue seems to be about half back story and setup for the issues to come and yet also manages to move at a breakneck pace. We also learn that sudden violent death can cause a person to spontaneously become a ghost (without being aware of passing through the stage of death) which makes the process of triage a lot more exciting, what with dead people getting up and walking around instead of remaining inert by the roadside. Pugh’s art is excellent as always—it reminds me of Blade Runner’s view of a technologically advanced but clearly dystopian future—and presents the world as if covered with a green-blue haze (nicely contrasted by Alice’s taste for reddish-orange clothing). I also love the detail included in each frame and the rapid shifts in point of view and scale. Anyway, the new Hotwire series is off to a good start and I’ll be looking forward to issues #2 and 3.

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