The GeeksverseLeaving Proof 19 | “Hotwire: Requiem For The Dead” TPB review

Leaving Proof 19 | “Hotwire: Requiem For The Dead” TPB review
Published on Thursday, December 16, 2010 by
Hotwire: Requiem For The Dead
  • (Radical Books, 2010; 136 pages)
  • Writer, Illustrator, and Letterer: Steve Pugh
  • Book Design: JG Roshell of Comicraft
  • Based on a story by Warren Ellis
  • Cover Price: $14.95 US/$16.50 CAN
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Before anything else, let me get this out of the way: fully painted comic art doesn’t do anything for me. I know that painting comics well requires a superlative level of skill and craft, but to me, there’s a loss of dynamism that’s inherent in the technique. Everything looks so much more static and cluttered on a painted page to me, since I’ve been conditioned by years of reading “normal” comics to seek out the ink outlines of varying widths that define objects and their relationship to the background and foreground. That being said, that’s probably the only thing I didn’t like outright about Steve Pugh’s impressive one-man tour de force.

The eponymous Hotwire: Requiem For The Dead TPB collects all four issues of the mini-series originally released in 2008–2009 by Radical Publishing. From the TPB’s back cover:

In the near future, the living and the dead share the same space. Known as “Blue Lights,” the non-living are mostly harmless, roaming the streets, hiding from city lights, scuttling in the shadows. But when they begin to appear as ghostly weapons of mass destruction, Metro Police has only one person for the job: ALICE HOTWIRE, Detective Exorcist.

Underfunded, undermanned, and under investigation, her department is the only thing standing between the city and certain destruction.

That’s really all you need to know about the story right there. There’s a “mad ideas” charm to the premise that grabbed me from the outset, something that screams Ghostbusters-meets-The Matrix-meets-Die Hard. “Genre-mashing” carries with it certain pitfalls though, chief among them the issue of a potentially discordant clash in genre-associated themes and conventions. Pugh largely avoids this issue, not by delineating a consistent internal story logic, but by pushing the pace of the proceedings at such a furious and entertaining pace that the reader has neither the time nor inclination to ponder the story and setting’s occasional incongruities. It’s a book that rewards suspension of disbelief, but not at the cost of insulting the reader’s intelligence or sensibilities.

Acclaimed comics scribe Warren Ellis, who co-created the Alice Hotwire character, receives top billing on the TPB’s cover along with Pugh, which I found a little disingenuous on Radical’s part since he didn’t really contribute to the actual material for the mini-series and we can only guess at how similar this book’s story is to the original story written by Ellis (the 48 page Hotwire graphic novel that Ellis and Pugh created in 1992 was never published). Still, Ellis’ fingerprints are all over the protagonist. She’s an outrageously irreverent, sassy, sexy Brit with authority issues, which is about as stock an Ellis character as you can find (think Jenny Sparks of The Authority, Elsa Bloodstone of Nextwave, or his Re/Visioned Lara Croft). If you like the type, Pugh shows that he can handle the character’s tropes well. If you found Ellis’ Jenny Sparks and Elsa Bloodstone grating or annoying, well, you’ll probably feel the same way about Alice Hotwire.

The thing that really stuck with me after reading the TPB is how Pugh uses the ghostly “Blue Lights” as a metaphor for the people we’ve learned to tune out of our lives, whether they’re family members that we keep at a certain emotional distance through layers of impersonal communications technology or the homeless, the indigent, and the persecuted minorities that are increasingly becoming just another part of the ubiquitous and easily ignored background media noise that saturates our day-to-day lives. Alice Hotwire’s interactions with her mother struck me as especially poignant and emotionally authentic in contrast to the over-the-top big screen action that dominates most of the book. Pugh knows well enough not to let any underlying societal commentary get in the way of the primary goal of telling an entertaining story though, a quality that I appreciate very much in a writer.

All in all, Radical Books’ Hotwire: Requiem For The Dead is a solidly entertaining read and a great value at the cover price of $14.95 US/$16.50 CAN (it can be had for around $10 US on Amazon and other e-tailers, and I snagged it brand new for $13 CAN at my local bookseller). It offers an engaging story and solid comics craftsmanship (even if the art style isn’t one that I’m personally fond of), doesn’t take itself too seriously, and bundles in a relative wealth of extras such as an interview with Steve Pugh, a collection of sketches and concept art, and a selection of early Hotwire stories. The book easily makes the list of the five or so best TPB releases of 2010 that I’ve read, right up there with Marvel’s The ‘Nam, Vol.1 and Dark Horse Comics’ Zero Killer.

Miscellanea:
  • What a crazy two months it has been if you, like me, are a fan of boxing, mixed martial arts, and combat sports in general. From Manny Pacquiao’s clinical dismantling and destruction of Antonio Margarito, Glen Johnson’s age-defying performance against Allan Green, Sergio Martinez’ devastating one-punch knockout of Paul Williams, Nonito Donaire’s brutal beatdown of Wladimir Sidorenko, Georges St. Pierre’s domination of Josh Koscheck, Amir Khan’s thrillingly close win over Marcos Maidana, Showtime’s bantamweight boxing tournament, and Alistair Overeem’s K-1 Kickboxing Grand Prix campaign, I don’t think we’ve had this many satisfying fights in such a short span of time across a range of combat sports. It’s a great time to be a fight fan. Talk boxing, MMA, and kickboxing with me and others on KP’s Mixed Martial Arts/Combat Sports thread.
  • Well, the NBA’s Miami Heat are winning games again. But the biggest surprise to me these days is how dominant the San Antonio Spurs are looking, even with franchise cornerstone big man Tim Duncan averaging less than 29 minutes per game. And the upcoming NBA Finals will be in an odd-numbered year (2011), so we could be looking at another Spurs serious championship run since the team seems to play especially well during odd-numbered years (the Spurs won NBA titles in 1999, 2003, 2005, and 2007).
  • I’ve been reviewing episodes of the new GI Joe: Renegades cartoon airing on The Hub (a.k.a., the network formerly known as Discovery Kids). Read my most recent reviews here, here, and here. The overall verdict so far: a very promising start, but the show stumbled a bit with the latest episode.
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