It’s gratifying to see a concept that started off as just interesting bordering on “pretty cool” become “very good” as it matures. Steve Pugh’s first Hotwire series was born from the seeds of a collaboration with the venerable Warren Ellis, with Pugh handling the writing, art, and coloring on the final product (with Ellis’s blessing, of course). Despite being written by Pugh, however, the book bore all of Ellis’s trademarks: a brittle, manic science pixie heroine in lead Alice Hotwire, a tough-talking brute with a heart of gold in her partner Mobey, and the usual swirl of weaponized science wreaking havoc on a complacent future.
The first series explored a time not too far from now when the dead ceased to pass over and begin manifesting as “Blue Lights,” revenants of varying levels of sanity and danger, roaming the streets and—on occasion—wreaking havoc. Enter Alice Hotwire, the diminutive genius who works for the police performing science-based exorcisms, using a variety of radio-based weaponry and her acidic wit. By the end of the first series she gained the trust of her partner, Mobey, a veteran cop, and saved the police force from a dead cop-killer bent on wiping out the local boys in blue.
This first series was never dull and often quite enjoyable, but it always had that feel of being the first draft of an Ellis concept. Alice’s personality was still a bit thin, leaning pretty hard on the tough-talking science girl Ellis is known for, without Pugh adding his own stamp to the character. But this new volume builds her up into someone compelling, with something more than simply her wit and hostility to define her. Simply put, Alice is the smartest person in the room—she’ll tell you in the zip code—and she’s haunted literally and figuratively by the implications of her choices.
This volume sees her return to active duty after having her arm and face burned off at the conclusion of the first series (and subsequently regenerated), using her recuperation period to drink herself into a stupor and hang out with the ghost of an abusive ex. By the second issue she’s walked away from the pity party and is going head-to-head with a private security force attempting to track down a Blue walking around in a government-issue suit that that keeps him coherent. The Blues are getting stranger for lack of a better word, evolving in a way. Some are able to walk around in their old, rotting flesh—but don’t call them zombies, or Alice will have words with you.
Pugh’s continued development of Alice extends to not only her writing but her visuals. Her face is a bit more distinctive and rounded than in the first volume. Her eyes are a bit wider, and her appearance is more… alien? She’s an outsider, so it’s appropriate that she has a distinctive outsider’s look. Actually, all of the art has been stepped up a bit from the first volume, which was on occasion stiff, but is here fluid, with lively actors and some truly messed-up—in a good way—visuals. Alice’s “bad dog” of a boyfriend morphs and shifts into something grotesque based on his original form, a mouth tattoo on his belly opening and closing, threatening to devour Alice.
Deep Cut is leaps and bounds better than the first series, having now found its voice for its lead, and Pugh should be commended for building and refining the world instead of simply resting on his laurels.