Hotwire: Requiem for the Dead
written by Steve Pugh and Warren Ellis
Once you get past the fact that our protagonist is an unnaturally attractive, pixie-faced woman with the unlikely name “Hotwire,” Requiem for the Dead is an innovative, beautifully drawn story with a lot of neat sci-fi stuff to say.
In one of the not-too-distant dystopian futures that Warren Ellis loves to write and rewrite for every one of his visions, nonliving souls cloud the streets in a blue mist, generally causing a ruckus. Because this is such a unique problem, it's up to a specialized force to deal with the unquiet undead and all of the strangeness that they are capable of. When the threat becomes organized and is imminently more serious, Alice Hotwire dives headfirst into a fairly typical, but still exciting, adventure through the ghost underground, fancy anti-ghost equipment blazing.
Ellis is a complex writer, so it's important to note that he's credited on this volume only because he and Steve Pugh originated the idea for this story together before Ellis eventually abandoned it for other projects. Pugh, who is primarily an illustrator, does a truly excellent job of simplifying Ellis's potentially complicated ideas into a readable, enjoyable story with enough signature creepy elements and monsters to keep it exciting. If you're picking this up because it has the Ellis name on it, you shouldn't expect an Ellis-penned tale, but you'll likely be very pleased with what you do get.
Pugh's artwork transcends the medium he employs, whatever that might be at the time. It's actually very difficult to tell if he's painting digitally, with acrylics and watercolors, or if he employs an amazing combination of all of the above. It can sometimes be distracting to read a comic that has overly complex or overproduced artwork, so it's easy to leap to the conclusion that this is all style and no substance just by browsing through the pages. Ultimately, the realistic (and often surrealistic) artwork serves the story perfectly. Pugh's use of realistic humans is especially impressive, as his work is perfectly consistent from panel to panel and wonderfully expressive.
The occasionally saucy heroine, despite being obviously attractive, never falls into the trap of being sexualized, as far too many id-driven comics do. Sure, she tosses out a few choice words of profanity, but that’s only because she’s all business. If a giant snake ghost with a human skull for a face was about to chomp on you, I don't think you'd be concerned with the elegance of your vocabulary either.
The end of this volume promises a deeper exploration into the weird half-ghost city of Hotwire, and I honestly can’t wait to see what happens next.