REVIEW: Livewire #3, Amanda McKee faces a far greater danger than anything physical

Livewire #3 is out 2/13/2019.

By Zack Quaintance — Three issues into its run, Livewire is now among my favorite superhero comics (right up there with Bendis’ Superman and Immortal Hulk). This book just has such a great combination of honest characterization from writer Vita Ayala, kinetic and clear artwork from Raul Allen and Patricia Martin, and distinct yet connected chapters. Indeed, all three issues in this series so far have had different conceits, with clear thematic throughlines fostering a sense of unity.

Livewire is, in other words, a fantastic monthly comic. Livewire #3 sees our heroine still depowered, on the run, and known pretty much the world over as a war criminal. See, in this past summer’s Harbinger Wars 2 event, Livewire essentially turned off all the electronics in the United States to save her team from slaughter and oppression at the hands of malicious actors within government. This action, which seemed justified on its surface, had the end result of killing a horrific number of innocent people, from folks with pacemakers to hundreds on commercial planes.

In this issue, Livewire escapes to a safehouse before being hunted down by Pan, whom she has known since childhood under Toyo Harada within the Harbinger Foundation (readers needn’t know this bit of continuity to enjoy the series). The majority of this book is consumed by de-powered Livewire and Pan in combat, but the fisticuffs take a backseat, so intense is the discourse between the characters. Allen and Martin’s artwork is among the best in comics right now, and it makes for engaging activity as the argument between the two characters steadily raises the emotional stakes.

Pan and Livewire have a sibling relationship, and they spend the issue arguing as siblings do. This sort of complex discord between siblings is familiar territory for Ayala, who has told similarly-compelling stories about brothers and sisters in some of their best comics, particularly in their series with Vault Comics, Submerged. It’s all in here—the resentment, the rehashing of the past, the accusations of favoritism, the struggle to reframe history—all the well-worn maneuvers from real life sibling rivalry appear, compelling as can be.

What really makes Livewire #3 a white knuckle read, however, is the emotional threat poised to the lead character. In issue one, we saw Amanda McKee run through her status quo on the run, in issue two we saw her suffer physically at the hand of oppressive captors. In this issue, we see her honestly face down the severity of what she’s done in full, forced to do so by Pan’s accelerated empath abilities, which can essentially transfer memories from one person to another. Livewire, as we know, is a hero who believes in her fight and good intentions. That core component of her identity faces down a major threat here.

What Ayala does that’s so impressive is use this setup—the hunt, the character history, the transferred memory, the fistfighting—to illustrate the price for aggressive actions, asking whether regardless of how righteous or justified one feels, if aggression is ever the answer. In other words, can you be as right to fight back as Livewire was, and still find yourself suffering culpability for damage beyond your perception? Fighting a winning fight, even when you’re 100 percent correct, is still fighting, and maybe the nature of aggression is such that we can never truly anticipate how it afflicts the world.

That’s what I took from Livewire #3, and it’s an especially poignant point these days, when the difference between being right and productive has been so thoroughly muddied.

Overall: Livewire is a grounded book with high stakes, grand ideas, and terrifying threats, and in its pages, Ayala, Allen, and Martin are fearlessly addressing everything from Amanda’s intentions to her results to the impact of the wars she’s waged. This comic is, simply put, compelling stuff. 9.6/10

Livewire #3
Writer:
Vita Ayala
Artists: Raul Allen with Patricia Martin and Scott Koblish
Letterer: Saida Temofonte
Publisher:
Valiant Entertainment
Price: $3.99

Check out our reviews of Livewire #1 and Livewire #2!

Check out more comic book thoughts in our reviews archive.

Zack Quaintance is a tech reporter by day and freelance writer by night/weekend. He Tweets compulsively about storytelling and comics as BatmansBookcase.

REVIEW: Livewire #2 continues to establish this run as a must-read superhero comic

Livewire #2 is out 1/23/2019.

By Zack Quaintance — A key theme in Livewire #1 was whether one can justify extreme actions just because they have a righteous and worthy cause, and it manifested clearest in an argument toward the end between Amanda (aka Livewire) and Avi, an argument about her actions during the Harbinger Wars 2 event, during which she shut down the entire country’s power grid to stop shady government actors from murdering/abusing Psiots but in the process caused loss of life, resources, and safety.

Writer Vita Ayala’s script for the debut issue played this all out across the tricky philosophical ground the ideas call for, not letting anyone involved off the hook. This gave the series’ debut (and by extension the series moving forward) a dynamic, realistic feel. At one point, Avi even laid it all there, asking Amanda, “‘By any means necessary,’ right?”

More plot went down, and the first issue eventually ended with Amanda in a precarious position, seemingly caught by a squad of elite forces. During the capture, the commandos go out of their way to assure her they are motivated by good sense (she has a massive bounty on her head) and are far from the most extreme folks hunting her. It was a nigh-perfect ending, leaving readers with a sense/fear that Amanda was about to suffer consequences for what she’d done, potentially even in a way that would rattle the surety of her justifications.

Speaking of which...justifications, good intentions, right versus wrong, means versus the end, regret—that first issue had hints of it all, leading to a great hook for a series that already feels both promising and powerful (even if it is steeped in some immediate back continuity from the larger Valiant superhero universe). I, however, read an advanced copy of the issue in either late November or early December, and almost immediately regretted doing so because it meant that I wouldn’t get to resume this story for many weeks. Anyway, here we are now with Livewire #2.

What I found most impressive is the way it naturally evolves from its earlier focus on Livewire’s consequences, to the extreme actors on the other end, essentially putting her in the clutches of those she made her drastic move to save children from. And what do we find once she’s there? An infrastructure of abuse, fear, and weaponized bigotry that is well fortified, it was clearly in motion (although they insist it was not) long before she did what she did.

I don’t want to spoil any of the particulars, but I will note this excellent bit of dialogue, wherein Livewire tells her captors, Things like these are exactly what led me to the shut down. People like you made the fight necessary. It’s 2019, and I think most (if not every last one of us) has felt the need to say some variation of this in the last two or three years, perhaps often.

In a broader sense, this is just an incredibly smart comic. Stories about Valiant’s Psiot characters, is that they’re all built on ideas derivative from X-Men. The best of them (and this early Livewire book is quickly making a case to be among those, up there with Joshua Dysart’s and other writers’ Harbinger and Toyo Harada books) extrapolate the ideas and metaphors from X-Men to more complex and consequential places, places the commercial interests of the larger Marvel franchise often prevent them from going. When someone threatens to negate Livewire’s powers with an experimental surgery, for example, there’s a sense it might actually happen, which just isn’t the case with Nightcrawler, Colossus, or Kitty Pryde, and so on.

I could keep going, but the point is there’s just so much to like about this comic. This is really Valiant superhero stories at its best, smartly written, impeccably illustrated, and done with a sense that anything can happen if it serves the story. I highly recommend getting in on this series.

Some other quick highlights from issue #2: great word play equating false profits with false prophets; the opening fight sequence by Raul Allen and Patricia Martin is absolutely electric; the color work in the cell; and the excellent panel wherein Livewire starts to fight back against impossible adds, the one that stands as an homage to the famous We Can Do It! World War II poster.

Overall: Livewire #2 picks up where the previous installment left off. The creative team here is really building something special, and I can’t emphasize strong enough that fans of superhero fiction should get in on the bottom level. This comic has the potential to be a run talked about for a long while. 9.5/10

Livewire #2
Writer:
Vita Ayala
Artists: Raul Allen and Patricia Martin
Letterer: Saida Temofonte
Publisher: Valiant Entertainment
Price: $3.99

Check out some of other thoughts about this comic from both this week and the past in our reviews archive.

Zack Quaintance is a tech reporter by day and freelance writer by night/weekend. He Tweets compulsively about storytelling and comics as BatmansBookcase.

Thirsty Thursdays: December's Hottest Comic Book Art

By Allison Senecal — Superhero comic art has evolved at a really impressive rate in recent years...so much so that sometimes it can be a lot to handle. First there’s excitement, obviously, but then that excitement turns into something else...which is why each month we’re running our Thirsty Thursday rankings, a new and different way to look at our favorite comic art. Welcome to a sporadic examination of (as the kids say) the month’s thirstiest comics.

Enjoy!

Martian Manhunter #1
Artist: Riley Rossmo
Colorist: Ivan Plascencia
I would be remiss as a noted alien…enthusiast to not mention this sinuously-sensual scene at the very top of this month’s column. Deep Space Sixty-Nine anyone?
????? out of ?????

In space, no one can hear you scream.

Shatterstar #3
Artist:
Carlos Villa
Inker: Juan Vlasco
Colorist: Carlos Lopez
I’ll be sad when this series ends next month, but at least it’ll clear up a monthly thirst spot for someone else. Who doesn’t want a slice of Shatterstar…
💦💦💦💦💦 out of 5

Not today, fine. What about tomorrow?

Marvel Knights 20th #4
Artist:
Joshua Cassara
Colorist: Matt Milla
This issue really got to me emotionally, and I think that amplified everything. T’Challa absolutely ROCKING those street clothes, too. Any man who does that double hand clasp. Phew.
💦💦💦💦💦 out of 5

When he apologized to Ms. Cruz? I felt that.

When he apologized to Ms. Cruz? I felt that.

Namor: The Best Defense #1
Artist:
Carlos Magno
Colorist: Ian Herring
FINALLY I remember to put Namor where he belongs: on a thirst list. It’s ok, we’ll go in-depth with more Namor later this month for the first *Thirst Spotlight* (not the official title, don’t quote me).
💦💦💦💦💦 out of 5

Namor… sigh .

Namor…sigh.

Die #1
Artist:
Stephanie Hans
It’s Stephanie Hans, so you automatically know you’re getting gorgeous art and beautiful people, but this literally hits every single one of my favorite fantasy character aesthetics in one go. *weep*
💦💦💦💦💦 out of 5

This comic had me at  fantasy role-playing.

This comic had me at fantasy role-playing.

Thor #8
Artist:
Mike Del Mundo
AngelaaaaaAAAAAAAAAA. I would pre-order the Heven out of a Del Mundo Angela mini, but I’m sure the man has other things to do besides draw my favorite Marvel ladies. (See: his Elektra series.)
💦💦💦💦💦 out of 5

Who said anything about worthy? The word is thirsty.

Livewire #1
Artists:
Raul Allen and Patricia Martin
The only other Valiant series I’ve read in its entirety is Secret Weapons, so I was more or less prepared for Amanda McKee being one of my favorite ladies again. Especially pleased to have her back in the hands of Allén and Martín, one of my favorite art teams going into 2019.  
💦💦💦💦💦 out of 5

I, for one, am absolutely electrified.

Coming later in January: NAMOR. Some Namor. More Namor. Followed by oh so much Namor.

Check out The Thirstiest Comics of November.

Allison buys books professionally and comics unprofessionally. You can find her chaotic neutral Twitter feed at @maliciousglee.

REVIEW: Wonder Woman #54 by Steve Orlando, Raul Allen, Patricia Martin, Borja Pindado, & Saida Temofonte

By Zack Quaintance — I tend to keep a running list of my favorite single comics in any given year, in part because I’m compulsive but also because it helps when December rolls around and it’s time to spin some Best Of lists. One of the first books for 2018 was from Valiant. It was a one-shot comprised of vignettes about random items conjured by a guy with special powers. It was called Secret Weapons: Owen’s Story, written by screenwriter Eric Heisserer and drawn by the duo of Raul Allen and Patricia Martin. Meanwhile, one of the more recent additions to my list was Wonder Woman #51, a one shot about the depths of Diana Prince’s compassion, as drawn by Laura Braga and written by Steve Orlando.

See the connection? Now in Wonder Woman #54, the artists from that first comic and the writer from the second have united to tell a two-part Wonder Woman story, and the results in this first half are fantastic. It’s easy to see why DC tapped Allen and Martin to draw this issue. First of all, they’re super talented, and second, the plot of this book takes us to a mythology-tinged anachronistic setting, not unlike territory often covered by stories over at Valiant, where the duo typically works.

Their detailed and fully-rendered linework really grounds the world of the Bana-Mighdall, emphasizing the exotic timelessness of their culture. Orlando’s Wonder Woman writing continues to be strong, as it has for the entirety of his time on this book. Orlando just gets this character, depicting her as he does with equal parts limitless empathy and boundless swagger. It’s a delicate balance, and he nails it, giving us a Diana who knows full well how important her role is, and is also determined to have fun while doing her duty.

One of my favorite visual sequences from Wonder Woman #54

There are some sequences in this comic wherein the sensibilities of the writer and the artist come together impossibly well, thinking specifically of the page in which Borja Pindado’s yellow palette accentuates Rustam’s power as he blasts Diana out of the panel as well as of the bit where the center of the page depicts Diana deflecting bullets within the actual letters of the sound effects she’s making. There’s an old school adventure sensibility to both the writing and art here, as welcomely unstuck in time as the immortals who star in the story.

Overall: Separately, Steve Orlando and the duo of Raul Allen and Patricia Martin have fast become some of my favorite emerging creators in recent years, and so I found it an absolute treat for them to collaborate, especially with a character for which Orlando in particular possesses such an evident understanding. 9.0/10

For more comic book reviews, check out our review archives.

Zack Quaintance is a journalist who also writes fiction and makes comics. Find him on Twitter at @zackquaintance. He lives in Sacramento, California.