Vita Ayala (Writer), Raúl Allén (Artist), Patricia Martín (Artist), Saida Temofonte (Letters)
23 January, 2019
When we last saw Amanda McKee, aka Livewire, she had been captured by government agents. McKee, on the run after causing a nation-wide blackout, was about to come to a truce with her estranged friends when she was taken.
Now Livewire finds herself in a facility specially designed to dampen her powers, and some of the guards have taken it upon themselves to mete out their own brand of justice on the weakened Livewire. With the government cracking down even harder on psiots, and with no one aware of Livewire’s whereabouts, how is she going to save herself?
This was a surprisingly violent comic, and a massive tonal shift from the first installment, which focused on exposition to move the plot along. This issue is all action—that is, the actions of one guard beating up Livewire. It is deeply disturbing to read.
The physical act of being beaten up isn’t the only kind of violence Livewire encounters in this issue. The government contracts a medical group to find a permanent power dampener for psiots, and Livewire is their first experiment. There is talk of ‘neutering’ the psiots and methods to breed them out of existence. If the actions in this book weren’t violent enough, the concepts are even more so.
This is further heightened by the fact that Livewire is a woman of colour. If the creators were trying to draw parallels between the plight of psiots in the Valiant-verse and the way people of colour have been treated throughout history by those in positions of authority, they have certainly made their point. In a way, I’m glad that Livewire is taking a stand, but I wonder if it was necessary to be so brutal in the depiction of violence against the marginalised. There are pages and pages of Livewire being helpless and beaten. It often felt like the violence was bordering on gratuitous.
The book does subvert the damsel in distress trope, which was a relief, and gives us a panel where Livewire emulates Rosie the Riveter, but I still would have preferred there to be more agency for Livewire. After eons of reading about helpless women in violent situations, it seems regressive to put a female hero, especially a woman of colour, through the same treatment for such a prolonged period of time in what is effectively a very short comic book. As cathartic as the denouement is, it could have been done better.
Having said that, unlike in the first issue, where I sometimes felt that the dialogue was too exposition-heavy, here the book relies on subtext to move the plot along. The art is again beautiful. Though Raúl Allén and Patricia Martín don’t have as much landscape to play with as they did previously, their character work is outstanding. The expressions on the characters’ faces are so realistic that one doesn’t need words to accompany the art. I particularly love their colour work in this issue—the hues perfectly complement the emotions the story evokes.
I loved the first issue of Livewire and was hoping for something similar from this second installment. Though the extreme tonal shift is hard to adjust to, I am still excited for the rest of the series. Livewire is a great character and I want to see how she can save the day, if that is where the story wants to go. But I do hope that the rest of the issues are better handled than this one.