Livewires #1


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Livewires #1


  • Words: Adam Warren
  • Art: Rick Mays
  • Inks: Jason Martin
  • Colors: Guru EFX
  • Story Title: See These Eyes So Red
  • Publisher: Marvel Comics
  • Price: $2.99
  • Release Date: Feb 16, 2005

It’s unfortunate that Livewires #1 was released on the same day as the first installment in the second volume of Marvel’s Runaways. The latter, a big hit with readers that managed to actually introduce new characters with some staying power, throws Livewires into some pretty sharp contrast. It’s not that Livewires is an outright bad read, but the comparison proves that there is a right way and a wrong way to involve new readers in a new story, especially when the genre, a team of teen superheroes, is such familiar turf.

Livewires introduces us to a team of highly advanced androids responsible for dangerous wetworks operations that seem to involve blowing up super-secret research installations. Each of them has a specialization and a semi-ridiculous codename. There’s the hulking “Cornfed,” the flirty “Social Butterfly,” the gun-toting “Hollowpoint Ninja,” and then there’s “Gothic Lolita,” whose codename seems solely derived from her fashion sense. Yes, it’s a convention of the genre that they get to have these codenames, but there’s something almost silly about the way they introduce themselves. It doesn’t seem cool or exciting the way “Cyclops” or “Wolverine” does. It seems contrived.

That is a shame, because much of Adam Warren’s story is conceptually good. The particulars of how the androids function (including Cornfed literally cannibalizing a fallen comrade in the opening pages to re-absorb useful nanotechnology) are quite original. The team’s mandate, which amounts to being the super-secret program in charge of not letting other secret programs develop things that might become horrible New York-threatening monsters, is cute. The program featured in this first issue even includes a nice retro throwback to Marvel history by trying to develop robots based on the original robotic Human Torch.

The big problem with Livewires lies in the way Warren chooses to introduce us to his world. The mechanism is a familiar one, whereby the rest of the characters are trying to get their new teammate up to speed on what’s going on, but it’s way too much information in a never-ending stream. If you read all the dialogue in the issue, it amounts to nothing more than an explanation of what’s going on and a description of the main characters and their powers. There is no meaningful interaction between people. There is no real hint of personality or depth to any of the characters. There is only exposition from beginning to end. “I’m so-and-so and this is my power and now it’s time for you to meet so-and-so to tell you more about what we’re doing here and why she’s wearing this outfit.” And then something explodes.

The manga-inspired artwork is a good choice for the material. Rick Mays’ Japanese-inspired renderings of big-eyed characters with spiky hair lend themselves well to a story about androids fighting monsters while wearing robo-bodysuits. Granted, there’s only so much room to work with given the subject matter, but the character design is a little cookie-cutter. Looking at the entire team assembled, I couldn’t help but think I was looking at Gen13 if everyone had traded ethnicities and powers. The still-unnamed new teammate even bears a striking resemblance to Caitlin Fairchild prior to her superbabe transformation.

It’s good to see Marvel attempting to branch out and create some new characters and properties. Marvel Next’s focus on new teenage characters is a good attempt to appeal to a younger generation that the industry so desperately needs to attract if it’s going to survive.  Livewires, however seems too big on concept and too thin on the details of executing that concept. It might be interesting to see how the story develops in subsequent issues, but based on its introduction, this book can’t be recommended until it settles down to the business of good storytelling with unique characters.

- Jesse Vigil

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