Written by Vita Ayala
Art by Raul Allen and Patricia Martin
Lettering by Saida Temofonte
Published by Valiant Entertainment
‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10
For those wishing they could get a sequel to last year’s stellar Secret Weapons series, readers will get treated to the next best thing in Livewire #1. Reuniting the art team from that series, writer Vita Ayala and artists Raul Allen and Patricia Martin deliver a streamlined but straightforward plot and execute it with some dazzling visuals - that said, while Livewire is largely accessible, the book’s solo focus robs this series of the chemistry and surprise of the Secret Weapons series.
There’s a sense of ambivalence when it comes to the public’s perception of Livewire - on the one hand, Ayala kicks off her script with a jolt of action, as her heroine rescues civilians caught in the middle of a mid-air collision between two passenger jets. But even with lives on the line, Amanda can’t escape her own bad reputation - namely, causing a massive blackout that resulted in large-scale collateral damage and people branding her as a power-mad terrorist. “They have misunderstood me, and my intentions,” Ayala writes - and it’s not just the normal humans questioning Livewire’s means, but her former charges from Secret Weapons, as well. Amanda may be more or less all-powerful, with limitless amounts of data at her disposal, but Ayala also smartly alludes that Livewire still has a lot to learn about to be both a protector of her people as well as a hero to the public. It’s this ambiguity that is this story’s greatest strength.
That said, that means there’s an awful lot of telling rather than showing here - while it’s good to see the Secret Weapons cast, for example, the recitation of the blackout doesn’t necessarily resonate as emotionally as readers actually seeing the fallout would have. Instead, the major visual segments of the book are the fight sequences, and while they’re illustrated beautifully - more on that in a second - they also feel a little nondescript, in part because Livewire’s powers historically have been a bit vague and ill-defined. What are her limits? Her possibilities? By not establishing set rules, the tenseness of the action is lessened, making both the victories and the setbacks feel too convenient. The result is a script that is solid, but one that doesn’t necessarily differentiate from many other superhero #1 spinoffs.
Yet for many readers, bringing Raul Allen and Patricia Martin back to the world of Secret Weapons, even tangentially, is going to be worth the price of admission - and real talk, those people would not be wrong. Allen and Martin lend so much mood and atmosphere to their pages, particularly with the gorgeous choice in color palettes and the sense of verisimilitude brought by their real-world settings like the California Science Center or the La Brea Tar Pits. Occasionally, however, they do struggle with the layouts on some of the more panel-dense pages - there’s a couple of six-tiered pages that can’t help but feel smashed on top of one another, making one of Ayala’s choicest sequences feel a little hard to follow - but in general, Allen and Martin excel in using a character’s placement in a particular setting to really elevate even a low-key scene.
Shrewdly spinning off of Secret Weapons, Livewire #1 marks a solid launch for what could be a very compelling series featuring a character of untapped potential. Ayala has laced this first issue with a sense of uncertainty - not in terms of the book’s execution, but in the belief of her main character. Has Livewire really done the right thing? Or can she not see the forest for the trees when it comes to making the world safe for psiots everywhere? Regardless of how these questions are answered, seeing Allen and Martin playing in this sandbox again is a welcome treat, and one that should afford Livewire enough goodwill to see where this series is headed next.