Indie Comic Review: Hotwire: Requiem for the Dead

Hotwire: Requiem for the Dead
Written by Steve Pugh (from a story by Warren Ellis)
Illustrated by Steve Pugh
Radical Publishing

Alice Hotwire is a Detective Exorcist for the Metro Police Department. She deals with the spirits of the recently (and not so recently) departed who have stopped crossing over to the Great Beyond. She has an array of embedded techno-gadgets and enhancements that are supposed to make her job much easier, and a personality that seems to make her relationship with her coworkers that much more difficult.

In addition to the persisting paranormal problems facing Alice’s city, rioting has broken out over police brutality. Fueling the riots is a video showing a Detective punching a 15 year-old protestor and breaking his nose. Alice is suspected of being the one who leaked the tape. This suspicion has done nothing to make Alice’s shaky relationship with the force any better.

Something has happened in the city. The ghosts, or “Blue Lights” as they are referred to, have become increasingly powerful. Instead of existing as a mere fog which floats a couple of feet off the ground, the Blue Lights are now manifesting themselves as full figures and are wreaking havoc on the city. It is up to Alice to get to the bottom of this mystery, and stop them before it is too late.

The book has Ellis’ fingerprints all over it . While Pugh has expanded the store and done his best to make it his own, the concepts at the heart of the story are pure Ellis; a combination of supernatural horror with a scientific explanation.

The story moves along at a brisk pace. A lot of ground is covered in 96 pages of story. even so, there is still time for some character development, at least the character of Alice. For a character which could very easily have been left as a bad-ass chick who fights ghosts, Pugh takes the time to delve deeper in to Alice’s past and begin reveal to the reader how she came to be the woman we meet.

There is a ton of dialogue as there is just too much happening for the art to handle alone. Every page and panel is chock-full of dialogue, computer transmissions, and voices of the dead. While this could have easily devolved in to an expository nightmare, Pugh reigns it in just enough so that what is coming out of the characters mouths seems natural and believable.

What was not natural or believable was the relationship between Alice and her “partner”, Mobey. Mobey is the detective caught on camera busting the protester’s nose. For whatever reason, Alice decides he is the one who can help her solve the problem of the increasingly powerful ghostly manifestations. Less believable is that Mobey seems to agree to go along with her for no other reason than because she asked him to. While they had a decent working dynamic in the story, I was never able to get ore the fact that they were working together in the first place. A more believable setup would have allowed me to enjoy their interactions much more.

The art on the book is a bit inconsistent. On the one hand, the colors are absolutely gorgeous. Radical has really figured out how to make the colors of painted books pop. The yellows and greens, in particular, really make a statement. When the scene calls for a big, scary Blue Light manifestation, the art pulls you in. But, when it comes to the scenes involving facial expressions and conversations between two people, the art stumbles. Paint is a difficult medium to work with when it comes to comics and facial expressions. So often the emotions and facial expressions just come off flat. Hotwire is no exception. Looking at the bonus material at the back of the book, the Alice that appears in those early incarnations is much more dynamic than the Alice who appears in this book.

The bonus material in the book is quite good. There are early looks at the characters, as well as early stories. It expands the character and our understanding of the world in which she lives. The back matter and bonus materials are a true addition to the book and almost worth the price of admission on their own.

Hotwire is an imperfect, yet entertaining book. It is worth a look at your LCS. There is a promise of future stories. While they are not on my “must-read” list, this book definitely has left me open to the possibility of reading more adventures from this Detective Exorcist.

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