by Steve Pugh (writer, artist, and letterer)

The Story: Alice Hotwire races to save the city from an invasion of blue lights and the ignorance of the Bear Claw mercenaries.

Review:  As with any issue of Hotwire, it seems fitting to start with the art first.  If you’ve ever seen an issue of Hotwire, you’ll know exactly what you’re getting here.  That is, you’re getting what may very well be the best looking comic on the stands right now.  Steve Pugh’s artwork is so stunning that it defies description.  Hyper-realistic, immensely detailed, lushly painted, and with really cool high-tech, near-future designs, this comic is a feast for the eyes.  Pugh’s massive and ornate blue light ghosts are awe inspiring and I also rather enjoyed Alice’s combat outfit this month.  Pugh creates a very realized world with every issue of Hotwire, fusing science fiction with horror in the most epic manner possible.

But there are the little things as well.  Alice’s facial expressions are always a blast, making the character instantly likable.  Her little nuances of emotion are always conveyed perfectly.  I particularly enjoyed Pugh’s use of close-ups during moments of tension.  The bottom-line is that this comic looks like one of those books with a shit story but art so good that you end up recommending it anyway.

Of course, in this case, the story’s rocking too.  As a last issue, the action is explosive and there’s a constant sense of pandemonium, desperation, and chaos.  Pugh effectively manages to make the events of this issue truly feel city-wide, not just limited to our characters and what we actually see on the page.  It’s an exciting, gripping read that’ll have you flipping the pages unconsciously until you’ve reached the end.

Blue-light soldier Tom continues to shine this month, in a big way.  Regardless of his past, he comes across as a full-fledged hero this month.  It’s easy to sympathize with the guy, who manages to go from perpetual loser to hero in the span of a few pages.  Leave it to Pugh to have you ultimately rooting for the ghost of a murderer threatening the city with destruction.

Then there’s Alice herself.  As always, I have to express my absolute love for the character.  As great as the world of Hotwire is, Alice is the lifeblood of the book.  She’s a face that a publisher could build its entire public image around.  She’s a perpetual asshole, but also one that’s impossible not to like.  Her dialogue is always a laugh-riot and I love the way she’s able to banter with the best of them, or completely change the rhythm of a conversation by throwing in a smart-mouthed quip.  She’s a character that basically says whatever’s on her mind, whenever it’s on her mind, who also happens to be too intelligent for her own good and willfully deaf to social etiquette.  Her dialogue is a treat to watch, as is her friendship with Mobey.  It’s there that we see glimmers of the real Alice, the tender person beneath all the asocial quips.

But that’s not good enough for Pugh, who also ends the issue through opening up philosophical questions about the nature of blue lights that quite easily dovetails into a brief consideration of core existential principles.  At its end, the book is at its most intellectual and thought provoking.  Of course, that’s quickly brought to a halt by a very funny Alice quip.  What better way to finish a Hotwire mini?

Conclusion: Radical’s best comic.  Alice Hotwire is among the best characters in comics today and her world is similarly top tier.  Whatever the format you choose, this is a book you need to be reading.

Grade: A

-Alex Evans