REVIEW: Wicked Things #4: Wicked Switches

A sleuth, stolen goods, and second chances strengthen the subplot in this successive session of Wicked Things. The ongoing series from the creative team behind Giant Days shows us the subtle superpowers of smartphone sellers, while with sincere satisfaction we see Lottie’s skills spotlit.

Wicked Things #4

John Allison (creator, writer, variant cover), Max Sarin (art and cover), Whitney Cogar (colors), Jim Campbell (letters), Michelle Ankely (designer), Sophie Philips-Roberts (associate editor), Shannon Waters (editor)
August 26, 2020

Continuing where Wicked Things #3 left off we see the high-tech heist in action. The we delve deeper into what Lottie’s involvement in the police may mean.

Stolen Goods

We watch the retail workers prepare for the release of the new Z Phone E. Cogar and Sarin’s visual contrast between the retail workers and their CEO is amazing. The glow of the video of their CEO on a screen illuminates the genius workers. His image is bright and joyful, drawn larger than life. In contrast, Cogar’s colors remove the brightness from Sarin’s line work depicting the fatigue and cynicism of the workers looking at that screen. Tired versus energetic, bright versus de-saturated: this panel illustrates the drain that corporations have on people and bring sympathy to the Kian and Nelson’s theft. The twins have the smarts and skills to manipulate the technology and the system. So, except for retaliatory actions, the only thing harmed in this crime was a corporation.

Beyond retaliations, the way Kian and Nelson’s plan works is because of the technologies such corporations feed on. The anonymity of the gig economy and the encapsulation of “disruptive” technologies leave no trail. So, the thing hurt is a corporation’s bottom line. Along the way, every gig worker gets paid and the obsessed public, which Sarin captures in successive panels crushing the twins into their next frames, gets their phones. The fake hashtag Allison created for the phone, “zphonee” (the phoney), is such a great play on words because who is the phony in this case, if the police punish the theft of phones but not the wage theft of corporations?

A Sleuth

D.I. Derek Dennison reluctantly calls Lottie Grote, teen detective, into action. With Sarin’s delightful embarrassment and Cogar’s red squiggles of exasperation, D.I. Dennison acknowledges that someone stole a large shipment of new phones. With that out, he brings Lottie along to interview the bosses of the companies that Kian and Nelson funneled the phones through. She is less than helpful. While she can follow clues, Lottie lacks soft sleuthing skills. Her ability to interview and communicate with others is poor at best and causes trouble more than anything else.

Lottie is can see things that the others do not but it does not mean she is an effective detective. That’s the difference between police work and good ideas. I value the way that this enters the story through Detective Bohle, when she says things like “Or as the condition is also known, two people” (emphasis in the original). These moments remind Lottie that her exceptionalism and puzzle solving are not enough to catch perpetrators. Detective Bohle event states this plainly a few pages later saying, “Think about trying some teamwork instead of running rings round people…There’s no I in ‘Police Force’”. Because there is an I and teamwork is an important tool for the lone detective.

Second Chances

This issue explores second chances and we wrap it up with simple serenity. While Lottie distills the exact details of the heist (she’s actually seen Kian if we look back to issue #3), we see the thriving thieves start their new lives. With modern research into criminality, we understand that crimes like theft are typically not for fun. And this was the case for Kian and Nelson. We discover that Kian sacrificed his normal life to give his twin, Nelson, a fresh start. Sarin’s lines with Cogar’s colors on Kian’s freighter sailing into the sunset help give their heist a poetic ending.

Lottie too could get a second chance, if she learns to work with others. Although she solved the mystery in the last issue, that did not translate into validation of her behavior towards her fellow officers. Slumped on a table with her hair flattened and her energy drained, she has not gotten her man. And I hope she never does. With the myriad ways that corporations steal wages, emotions, and the energy of working class people, I hope Lottie can be satisfied with knowing how it was done. It brings in the central question for Lottie’s character: what does she enjoy about detective work? Is it solving the puzzle, catching the wrong-doer, or both? And will her experiences as an imprisoned person change her perspective regarding these “criminals”?

As much as Lottie focused on solving the theft, the heart of the series is Miyamoto-san’s attempted murder. The end of the issue reminds us of this with the arrival of Lottie’s outfits and friend [NAME]. I hope the wonder of a new wardrobe allows Lottie to learn a few things and solve that mystery in the next issues of Wicked Things.

Paulina Przystupa

Paulina Przystupa

Paulina (aka @punuckish) is a Filipine-Polish archaeologist and anthropology graduate student who grew up in the Pacific Northwest and loves comics and pop culture. Her academic work focuses on how buildings and landscapes aid or impede the learning of culture by children. In general, she is an over-educated fan of things; primarily comics, comics-related properties, cartoons, science-fiction, and fantasy. This means she takes what she knows and uses it to critique what she loves. Recently, she has brought such discussions to the public by organizing and moderating panels at comic cons centered on anthropology/culture related topics.