Every day this year, I will be examining the first pages of random comics. Today’s page is from Hotwire: Requiem for the Dead #3, which was published by Radical and is cover dated May 2009. Enjoy!
Hotwire is a comic conceived by Warren Ellis but brought to life by Steve Pugh, who wrote it, drew it, colored it, and lettered it. Is it, of course, drawn in a wildly different style than Pugh often employs, but as it takes place in a semi-dystopian future, the style fits well with the tone of the book.
Pugh packs in a lot of words on this page, as apparently we need to get caught up. There are protesters marching, the police are having trouble controlling them, there’s press among the protesters, and the boss orders them to fall back. From the artwork, we can see that the people are marching because of police brutality, although Pugh trusts us to remember the earlier issues and doesn’t give us any more than that. The crowd, epitomized by the screaming man in Panel 1, wants the police to turn over their own, presumably so they can mete out some street justice. In the final panel, the boss mentions “Hotwire,” who is Alice Hotwire, the heroine of the comic. She has taken an “air unit” and that is causing the boss some consternation.
Pugh leads off the book with the screaming man, who looks much more like he’s whining like a baby than screaming (the distinction is fine, I know). This is, however, where our eye first lands, so we get the angry mood of the crowd right away before we move naturally to the poster with the two cops’ faces on it, the rest of the crowd, and the “Police Brutal” sign in the bottom right of the panel. Then Pugh reverses the way we usually see a scene, by pulling back instead of zooming in. This is so he can easily transition from the actual crowd to the virtual crowd in Panel 3 – it’s unclear in Panel 2 if we’re looking at the actual crowd or have already transitioned to the virtual crowd, which is the way Pugh wants it. Obviously, in Panel 3 the commander (her name escapes me at the moment) is supposed to look both powerful and perhaps a bit too omnipresent, as she looks down at the scene from a great height. The bottom of the page shows, if we didn’t already know it from the dialogue, that this takes place slightly in the future, as the virtual reality show and the buildings give us hints about it. The green of the computer lights the commander’s face eerily, too, which is a good touch.
Pugh doesn’t do a very good job moving our eyes across the page – he relies on our knowledge of how we read a page to guide us, and nothing really points to subsequent panels. The book’s page layouts are actually more interesting than this page indicates, but here, at least, Pugh doesn’t do much. The way he places the caption boxes across the panel borders is a nice touch, because we are forced to stop and read them, but Pugh doesn’t block the action in the panels. Obviously, this kind of art – with the computer effects and all – is not for everyone, but Pugh actually does it a lot better than most people. This page isn’t a great example of either the style or his storytelling skills, unfortunately, but it does give you basic information about the plot of the book!
Next: Kurt Busiek and Marvel history? That’s a recipe for some good comics! There are plenty of good comics in the archives!