Writer: Vita Ayala
Artists: Raúl Allén & Patricia Martín
Letters: Saida Temofonte
Cover artists: Adam Pollina, Harvey Tolibao, Paulina Ganucheau & Doug Braithwaite
Editor: David Menchel & Joseph Illidge
Publisher: Valiant Entertainment
Price: $3.99 US
I’ve never had much of an attachment to the Valiant brand. I’ve read and enjoyed a few Valiant titles — from the 1990s to today — but not that many, so I’m not well versed on the publisher’s continuity or lore. However, when I heard writer Vita Ayala was helming this new title, my interest was piqued immediately. She’s a powerful new voice in comics, and her star is rising rapidly in the industry for good reason. Furthermore, it seemed to me as though she was crafting a new character, a new property for the Valiant line. Boy, was I wrong. As I made my way through these pages, I was more than a little confused, and I quickly discovered Livewire is far from a new character. I soon learned she’s been around for a quarter century, and that history definitely plays a role in this new title. Livewire appears to have been fashioned specifically for the Valiant devotee, and that leaves readers such as myself out in the cold. That inaccessibility is a shame, as there’s some strong characterization serving as the foundation for this story.
Amanda McKee is a wanted woman. She’s a powerful metahuman who wanted nothing more in life than to protect people, and she did so in partnership with public officials. But the government turned on her, branded her a terrorist, when all she wanted to do was help people, protect those about whom she cared. Now she thinks she’s found a way to offer harbor and security for her fellow psionically powered friends from whom she was separated, but their reaction to her proposal takes her off guard.
Allén and Martín’s artwork certainly conveys a sense of realism that’s in keeping with the storytelling approach here; I’m reminded of the styles of Michael (Jessica Jones, Pearl) Gaydos and Jesus (Doctor Strange) Saiz here. The real-world backdrops are quite convincing as well. Of course, the chosen locations tend to be rather sparse, making the required level of detail rather minimal, so on occasion, it looks like the story is unfolding on an almost blank canvas. The artists’ figures are rather stiff, and in the action-oriented sequences, it can be difficult to discern what’s going on. The artists also employ a specific monochromatic color scheme to convey the title character’s use of her powers, but the need for that approach just highlights how hard it can be figure out what’s going on when she does so.
The issue opens with the heroine performing an unimaginable act of power and heroism; we’re talking Superman-level stuff. From the limited exposition provided on the credits page, I was taken aback by her power levels. That couple of paragraphs of text before the comic got underway led me to believe she was a super-hacker, psionically able to manipulate and navigate technology. But then I see her flying, telekinetically manipulating objects, hoisting people out of the sky, achieving a level of impossibility for which I wasn’t prepared. And I was immediately struck by the notion that Livewire is too powerful — which, admittedly, appears to be part of the point of the story. But that initially led me to see her as beyond any physical conflict that would be thrown at her, which is why the scene at the end of the issue just didn’t work for me. Given the display at the beginning, the outcome of the attack with which she contends later seemed… implausible.
What did work for me was the dynamics between Amanda and her friends. While I lacked the context to understand the exchanges completely, the interpersonal conflict rang true. Amanda is trying to help, but she’s shocked to learn her friends resent her for her past actions — which she carried out, again, to help people. It appears that at the heart of this series is the notion that the heroine needs to learn that just because she can do something, that doesn’t necessarily mean she should do something. She needs to learn there’s a divide between intentions and consequences.
The biggest liability here, though, is that the story relies far too much on the audience’s familiarity with the characters. This doesn’t read like the first issue of a new series, but more like the 27th or 63rd, maybe picking up after a one-year jump. While the most interesting scenes are those featuring Amanda and her friends wrestling with the former’s actions and decisions, new readers aren’t vested in these personalities. While I was intrigued, I had no reason to be concerned, to be hopeful for these figures’ fates. I think it’s safe to say that those who know the past stories and developments being referenced in the script will get a lot more out of Livewire, but it seems odd Ayala and Valiant didn’t do a little more to invite new readers into this world. 5/10