By Toren Chenault — So far, 2018 has been a phenomenal year for comics. And it doesn’t seem to matter what you’re into. DC, Marvel, Image, AfterShock, BOOM! Studios...name a publisher, and they’ve had a hit this year. Valiant Comics is no different. Valiant Beyond is the new direction for the company, and as part of that direction comes a solo series for one of their most powerful characters.
Amanda McKee, aka Livewire, is an insanely powerful technopath who, just recently, shook up the Valiant Universe during the Harbinger Wars 2 summer event. Most characters now consider Livewire a villain, with very few still calling her a hero. As such, this is a series that comes at a crucial time for the character, and writer Vita Ayala and artists Raul Allen and Patricia Martin handle Livewire #1 with class, creating an emotional and introspective with a hook that makes you eager to learn more about Livewire.
This is Livewire’s first ongoing series. She’s a character who’s been featured in Valiant since its relaunch in 2011 and has subsequently gone through one of the best character arcs in all of comics, not just Valiant. She started off as a loyal student to billionaire and powerful Harbinger, Toyo Harada. Then, she became a superhero and team leader of a group called Unity. And recently, she became a resistance leader with her Secret Weapons team. But that came with a cost. Livewire, using her powers, turned off the power grid of the entire United States. And not everyone came out okay. This new series now serves as great jumping on point for readers as they learn about who Amanda is, while for existing fans, this book is about the the long-awaited fallout from Livewire’s actions in Harbinger Wars 2.
The highlight of Livewire #1 comes from Amanda’s characterization. She’s a weird person. She grew up isolated from the world and was indoctrinated by Toyo Harada. Over the years, she grew past that, but she still never had much of a social life or many friends. Livewire #1 dives into her weird personality and balances it with her love of her team, The Secret Weapons, who are essentially three kids that Livewire helped and trained to become better psiots. The relationship between Amanda and her team is a special one, and one that Ayala does a good job of showing.
But like all relationships, they have their bad times, too, and the emotional core of this issue comes from Amanda confronting her team for the first time since leading her resistance in Harbinger Wars 2. Amanda had good reasons for starting another Harbinger War, but sometimes ends don’t justify the means. To me, this is where the issue truly shines, because Ayala constructs the dialogue in a way that makes readers sincerely care about characters in the moment. There’s also just enough background so that new readers won’t be confused, but rather eager to learn more about Amanda’s past.
The art duo on this comic is the rising star team of Raul Allen and Patricia Martin. Allen and Martin both worked on Secret Weapons with Arrival screenwriter Eric Heisserer, so they’re not new to Valiant. Their comfort with the characters shows in the art. Bold, detailed pencils and bright colors are some of the ways their art shines. Secret Weapons to me, was structured like a movie. The panels were arranged in a way that made the comic feel extremely fluid. Livewire #1 boast those same qualities.
Every page in the comic seems to have a transparent blue sheet over it as Martin’s colors provide a calming effect. I could write for hours on the quality of this art and just how well done it is, but the last thing that I’ll say is how beautiful they make Livewire look each time we see her. She has a presence, and every time she appears on the page you feel as if something big is about to happen. It’s this awesome combination of Allen’s detailed panel work, well-defined pencils, and Martin’s soft blends of blue, pink, and purple, that make this comic work so well .
Overall: I expected this comic to be a hit for me. It has a lot going on for it. What separates this from most superhero comics, though, is that Livewire is such an interesting character, one who hasn’t been explored too much yet. There’s a moment at the end of the issue that made me tear up because of the depth with which Ayala writes Amanda. And I was not expecting that. Given how this first issue ends, we’re in for a long ride with Livewire. And I can’t wait to take it. 9.5/10
Writer: Vita Ayala
Artist: Raul Allen
Colorist: Patricia Martin
Letterer: Saida Temofonte
Publisher: Valiant Comics
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Toren Chenault, a native of the Cincinnati area, currently lives in Michigan with his girlfriend. A graduate of Michigan State University, he is a long-time superhero fan who counts Captain Atom, Carol Danvers’ Captain Marvel, Daredevil, Divinity, Nightwing, and XO Manowar among his favorite heroes. Mystic Man is his first book. Buy it now here.