Review by “EduXavi” at TrazosenelBloc.blogspot.com
Dolmen Editorial is becoming a new force in publishing as far as American comics are concerned. After a brief hiatus when the company practically stopped publishing American comics (with rare exceptions [like Moving Pictures by Kathryn and Stuart Immonen, The Mice Templar by Glass and Oeming…] or delegated/co-published franchises with Final Editions [Invincible, Savage Dragon]), possibly due to low sales and the rampant global crisis still on our heads, they seem to be returning to try an American venture with the rights to a new and small publisher across the pond, Radical Comics, an interesting initiative where they intend to venture into new and risky themes with first class creative teams and edited at above-average quality using the most advanced technology in the field of computer graphics.
In Hotwire: Requiem for the Dead, the first title published by Dolmen from [Radical], we see very clearly where the company is headed with these works, that themes offered might be unconventional or following a well-defined pattern, and what kind of product they’ve decided they want to offer to fans… and all of this thanks to the good work of British artist Steve Pugh, the complete author of this story based on an idea posed years ago by Warren Ellis at the start of his career as a comic book writer among the major promising British talents in the ’80s and ’90s. But the project remained unpublished when the first publisher to print it, the British Tundra UK, collapsed. Years later, the same editor (now working for the new publisher Radical Comics) decided to give a second chance to Hotwire, who once stood on the verge of being published, and it was Pugh, this time without Ellis’ scripts, who took charge of the project as complete author to give the character a new look and context more fitting with the times and following guidelines created by the new publisher, and yes, without leaving behind the essence of the character created by Ellis, who gave his permission to Pugh to do with it whatever he wanted, thus granting a new and somewhat different approach to material that, after 20 years, was personally reshaped by the artist himself, as the character had already marked him and he never forgot about her after the acclaimed British writer created her in the early ’90s.
The main protagonist of this story, Alice Hotwire, is a Detective Exorcist specialized in capturing “blue lights,” a kind of undead who never became truly dead and instead became a sort of “ghost” who move among the living, but whose presence is reduced and controlled in special areas by suppressor towers. Assisting in this particular battle against these “ghosts” are Peter Mobey, a detective with the police department who is temporarily caught in the wake of a prior incident, the ex-chief of police, Hollis, the new chief of police, Josie Barrow, and the coroner, Dr. Love.
If we can talk about Steve Pugh’s art, I must admit that hyper-realistic styles like his (heir to the best British schools of the ’70s and ’80s, like Don Lawrence, or later Brian Bolland, or the same generation’s Liam Sharp or Dough Braithwaite and others across the pond such as Alex Ross) have always attracted me greatly, moreso when attached to a fantastic story, making it believable and realistic, set in the near future, which allows its style to be even more successful, and with playful computer coloring, creating a spectacular and striking (even explosive) color palette that hooks you right away as if it were a single screen visualizing a whole.
As for the script, for a novice on the subject, as Pugh openly acknowledges, nothing is out of place in the proper and orderly development of the story, which maintains a proper tempo in the dialogue without getting lost in unnecessary soliloquies, goes straight to the heart of the story, and cuts to the chase with four strokes to expose the origin and history of Hotwire’s character. We do not know much about Warren Ellis’ hand in this, if he left it very detailed from the start and Pugh added small tweaks and additions (which are already numerous, as he creates characters who never appeared in the initial story by Ellis), but there is enough to give [the project] that final push and leave the story as he wanted to see it.
As for the original edition and short stories (like the one included as an extra in this volume, “Piggy,” previously published in black and white and later colored), the author has been constantly tweaking the morphology of the main character, gradually becoming more painterly and realistic, with a clear futuristic/geek bent. The previous step in Hotwire’s design can be seen in the already-discussed short story “Piggy,” which the author made two years before the work of which we speak today.
Dolmen’s edition is very extensive, with interesting interviews about the author’s personal views, the extra short story referenced above, and plenty of illustrations and designs that show perfectly its stylistic evolution up to the final version created by Pugh, thus updating the character and work.
Thus, this story starts on the right foot, bringing a new vision to the cyberpunk sci-fi theme with a new tale of the undead (“ghosts”) who are so popular lately and giving a good dose of entertainment within the context of a comic book that is among the best science fiction to be found now, full of action and adventure, accompanied by a good dose of futuristic realism in our potential near future. Next week, this same publisher issues a second volume of this title, Hotwire vol. 2: Deep Cut, where we will see again the evolution and settling of this particular universe.
Click here to go to this article at Trazos en el Bloc or click the cover image to learn more about Hotwire.
Note: This article has been translated from its original Spanish. If you notice any significant errors, please let us know in the comments section below and corrections will be made. Thank you!