Review by Kris Bather
This is one of Radical’s best looking books, and that’s saying a lot considering the company it keeps. Since Steve Pugh’s first Hotwire series in 2009, I’ve been hooked on this adventurous sci-fi/horror blend. It’s one of those rare titles that manages to capture and hold the attention of anyone who reads it. Believe me, I have a wealth of #1 issues that I grab out of curiosity and then drop after being unfulfilled. This isn’t the case here, thanks to its charming protagonist. Alice Hotwire is a no-nonsense action gal with a confidence and subtle sexuality that belies her tiny frame, and puts the pale heroine somewhere in the ballpark of Lt. Ellen Ripley and Lisbeth Salander.
Set in a future Britain in which ghosts cause havoc, and the titular detective exorcist rescues the city and her fellow, suspicious cops from danger, it’s a setting that fans of 2000AD will be somewhat familiar with. It’s a glowing world yet one in which there are hidden dangers and rebellious elements.
This final issue of the second series wraps things up nicely, though it still makes sense if you haven’t read the previous doses. However, you won’t regret picking up any previous issues.
Hotwire has assistance in keeping the so-called blue-lights at bay with her partner Mobey and fancy gadgets such as ceramic tombs and suppressor towers that are scattered around the country. In this finale, a dead soldier, with a pregnant woman in his arms, who sees Alice as her angel, has let his fellow deceased soldiers out of the confines of the forest in which they were contained (and bored) for decades. Now their blue tendrils and scary forms are making their way to the city and their first stop is a passenger train.
Alice also has to deal with the far less careful efforts of a team from Bear Claw Security (which there is an ad for in these pages) and in one of this issue’s best sequences, she jumps out of a high-tech helicopter to get to the ghosts first. With technical hitches, and a possession of one of the soldiers, it means it’s all up to the small, feisty exorcist to save the day.
Pugh makes each page a dazzling ocular spectacle. The last issue came out in October and it’s obvious why it takes the artist so long. The digital paintwork is extraordinary and he never skimps on the details. His design work for vehicles, costumes and weapons is worthy of a grand sci-fi blockbuster and the page layouts and even sound effects and speech are diverse.
Granted, the story isn’t full of surprises, though I do like the addition of an upgraded teddy bear as a new friend for Alice, as shown at the end.
The tale ends in an intriguing fashion, with Alice in charge of the Bear Claw crew. Hopefully Pugh will give us a third series in which this plucky solo operator must learn to lead a team.