Reviews by J. Caleb Mozzocco
Hotwire: Deep Cut #1: Steve Pugh’s near-future sci-fi ghost-police procedural comic gets a second three-issue miniseries, following Hotwire: Requiem for the Dead.
Despite being a sequel, this first issue is an extremely easy to jump onto jumping-on point, in part because of the familiarity of the basic skeleton of the plot—troubled cop seemingly checks out on the job and the real world in general, but gets pulled back into the life when a case so big it demands her attention comes up—and in part because of the rather immediate focus on the past and personal life of the protagonist.
That protagonist is, of course, the irritatingly intelligent, body modification-into, twenty-something, Metro Police Detective Exorcist Alice Hotwire, whose Warren Ellis-ishness is easily explained by the fact that she was co-created by Warren Ellis (Ellis still earns a cover credit and creator credit, but once again Steve Pugh provides both the writing and art).
After the events of the previous series, Alice is holed-up in her apartment playing videogames, drinking with the ghost/“blue light” of her ex-boyfriend and ignoring the phone messages left by her partner Mobey. When the overzealous SWAT-type accidentally cause a major highway accident while pursuing a brand-new type of ghost—which looks to be some sort of blue light/robot hybrid—she reluctantly goes back in action.
If you read Requiem for the Dead and dug it, you’ll be happy to know that this is more of the same, with Pugh working in the same art style, although the plotting and script seem a little tighter and a lot faster-paced, perhaps on account of a lot of the world-building regarding Alice’s future world having been gotten out of the way in the last go-round.
If you haven’t, this offers an excellent checking out point, as it seems quite representative of the previous series without being completely dependent on it. I’ve read at least the first issue of every miniseries Radical has put out so far—they’re pretty great about getting review copies into the hands of critics—and Hotwire is probably the best book they’ve published so far. Both the writing and art are quite accomplished, and, in terms of the latter, Pugh is working in the general area of what seems to be the publisher’s default house-style (realistic design, computer-y photorealism and/or painted-looking art… a general style I generally don’t care for), but Pugh’s is always brighter, easier to read and all-around better-looking than the bulk of it.
Time Bomb #1: Know how I said that Pugh’s Hotwire is probably the best book Radical’s published so far? Well, this is probably Hotwire’s biggest competition.
It’s also a somewhat standard genre comic, a very sci-fi, action adventure-y sort of thing with sexy characters doing exciting things with exciting, cutting-edge technology. Also, like Hotwire, it’s illustrated by an extremely talented and experienced comics artist, someone who has been drawing comics since [before] computer-coloring came along and started to dominate the look of comic book art.
In this case, that someone is Paul Gulacy, and he’s working with the writing team of Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray.
I’m sort of lukewarm on that writing team, as they sometimes write comics I kinda like, but more often than not write ones that somehow disappoint me—I’ve rarely read anything from them that I found out-and-out terrible, but if I were a teacher handing out grades and they were in my class, I think they’d probably have a B average, sometimes earning B+’s or the occasional A-, sometimes pulling C’s or C+’s.
This one’s pretty good though, and that may have a little to do with the fact that they’re not wrestling with DC and Marvel continuity and characterization, as they usually are when I read something with their names on it.
So here’s the premise. In the very near future—like, two years from now—a world-ruling government-type agency with the extremely unimaginative name of “New World Order” (they even operate out of a skyscraper marked “NWO”!) are alarmed when some agents find a hidden Nazi city under Germany.
While exploring it further, those agents accidentally set off a rocket marked with Darkseid’s favorite letter of the Greek alphabet, which promptly explodes and unleashes a humanity-killing-off virus on the world. In a matter of days, any humans not living in fancy bunkers will be dead.
The only hope of stopping it is to have never launched it in the first place, something that might be possible, thanks to a super-secret time-travel device with fairly limited abilities. The plan is to send four highly-trained, heavily-armed, attractive-looking agents back in time with a massive contact list with this little mission impossible: Find the world leaders in the past, convince them that they are agents sent from the future, and then stop them from discovering that hidden Nazi city and/or launching that weapon.
The team doesn’t actually make it back in time until page 46 of 51, which means there’s an awful lot of stage-setting, some of which I spoiled (although the cover contains a lot of that stuff anyway, right? Rocket, Nazi menace, sexy-super agents?). Much of that build-up is pretty interesting though. The NWO stuff may have elicited some eye-rolling, but the technobabble revolving around the time-travel stuff was a lot of fun—it was infinitely more realistic and specific in scope than a lot of what you get in sci-fi comics or movies. There was something rather Michael Crichton about it all, in that it was fantastic, but was at least plausible to someone like me, whose main experience with quantum physics is superhero comics.
After the team lands in the past, they find themselves a bit further back then expected, and immediately faced with a version of the killing Hitler dilemma, one in which there seems even less risk than usual, since for all intents and purposes their world could hardly get any worse if they altered the flow of 20th century history.
I know Gulacy is something of an acquired taste among many super-comics readers, but I’ve always dug his stuff, and it seems particularly smooth, clean and polished here (Charles Yoakum inked what Gulacy himself didn’t, and Rain Beredo handled colors… it’s aggressive coloring, but not so aggressive as to mess with Gulacy’s line or the staging of the panels).
It’s a really great looking book, and among the most comic book-y looking comic books that Radical’s published.
And at 51-pages (and a “prestige format” style spine) for just $5, it’s a damn good value too. Like Hotwire: Deep Cut, Time Bomb is a three-issue miniseries, and the second issue is due in shops September 15.
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