After an impressive first issue, “Hotwire: Requiem for the Dead” continues with its high concepts and sharp characterization. Steve Pugh is a one-man band here (aside from the concept being Warren Ellis’) and he is doing some career best work, although it does look very different from what fans might be used to. Instead of traditional coloring, Pugh uses a digital paint look that continues to improve, looking more naturalistic and less mid-‘90s video game. CBR’s preview pages give a great idea of how impressive it is.
Even more impressive is Pugh’s writing as he handles the pacing and dialogue deftly. This issue is a bit slower than the first, but that slowness is made up for with a greater focus on the book’s protagonist, Alice Hotwire, a police exorcist. Last issue introduced the concept that, at some point in the future, ghosts, or as they’re called here, blue lights, will manifest themselves until dampening technology keeps them at bay — at least in wealthy areas. Now, though, the blue lights are appearing within dampening fields and Alice needs to figure out why.
At the same time, the city is rioting because of a case of police brutality and a dead man just walked into police headquarters, his spirit still instead his corpse. Ghosts may be common in this world, but zombies aren’t. Especially when they come with ghost dragons as sidekicks.
Pugh juggles a lot of story here, but manages to keep things running smoothly, for the most part. He seems to lean on Ellis’ style of characterization a bit too heavily at times, which doesn’t match with his own more restrained style. Some lines just jump off the page in a bad way, but, really, Pugh does a great job with the writing.
His art is far more noticeable, because of its unique look. It does look better here, but that could be because it’s not quite the shock that it was in the first issue. It probably also has to do with Pugh growing more adept at this sort of coloring, allowing him to refrain from going overboard. The downside of the coloring remains that it overpowers the actual drawings much of the time.
Pugh’s work is really quite nice to look at, but it’s hidden underneath the coloring a lot of the time. In some spots, though, the coloring highlights some of the strengths of his work, like his animated facial expressions. Hopefully, the trade will have some pages of his pencils, so we can get a good look at them pre-coloring.
Highly entertaining, “Hotwire: Requiem for the Dead” mixes horror and sci-fi concepts well, and also contains a compelling mystery. Pugh’s work here will certainly turn heads.