Hidden Gems of Comics: Adam Warren's LIVEWIRES

It's not a manga. But it's the closest Marvel has ever come to publishing one.

First things first: Livewires is NOT a manga. Sure it's been collected in a digest format, features hyper-advanced human looking robots displaying human emotions, the art is very reminiscent of Japanese comics, it has, at times, a highly convoluted plot, and features more action than a comic published in America has any right to (the first issue is a protracted battle at a weapons factory, where we meet each main character one by one, at once showing their personality and role within the series). It's not a manga. But it's the closest Marvel has ever come to publishing one. Written by Adam Warren, with art by Rick Mays (based on Warren's layouts), the mini-series inhabits the espionage filled corner of the Marvel Universe that is home to Nick Fury, S.H.I.E.L.D, and numerous secret organizations, like A.I.M. And Hydra. The Livewires themselves are a team of 'human form combat mecha' (never call them robots, it's their 'R-word') created by a top secret, quasi- governmental R&D program. The team consists of Cornfed, medic and in charge of mission support and co-ordination, Gothic Lolita, the team's muscle (described as €œBen Grimm in baby doll lace€), infiltration agent Hollowpoint Ninja, Social Butterfly, who is designed to manipulate people into giving away any piece of information she needs, and our P.O.V. character Stem cell, the newest member who can re-create a piece of machinery she sees, thanks to a nano factory where her stomach should be. Their mission is simple: hunt down and destroy other top-secret, quasi-governmental R&D programs. The main reason I love this series is the characters. From Social Butterfly's infectious enthusiasm to Gothic Lolita's borderline psychosis, the characters grab you and pull through the story. They are incredibly likable and easy to connect with. Which is quite a feat since they are robots. The story does read like something you would find in a manga or anime (it reminded me of 'Ghost In The Shell€), energetic, not stopping to take it's breath but still advancing the plot in a satisfactory way. The action is well staged and of such a brain meltingly large scale (the final battle with 'The Big Kahuna', the teams ultimate target, lasts three issues) that multiple readings are required to take everything in. Warren does a good job of fleshing out the world the characters live in, making some of the more outrageous idea's, like pyrokinetic nanobots reverse-engineered from the Human Torch of the 1940's or a sentient virus designed to target only one person, actually believable. Comic book believable anyway. First published in 2005, it hasn't received a follow-up, or have the characters being used since, which is a shame, but also something of a good thing. The characters and the story are still fresh, not diluted and overused through numerous appearances over multiple titles (a major problem with characters such as Deadpool and Wolverine). It is one of the best mini-series Marvel has put out in the last few years, and I cannot recommend it highly enough. Previously on Hidden Gems of Comics; Hidden Gems of Comics: Batman€™s ARKHAM ASYLUM LIVING HELLHidden Gems of Comics: Mark Millar€™s SPIDER-MANHidden Gems of Comics: Brian Azzarello€™s LEX LUTHOR: MAN OF STEELHidden Gems of Comics: Garth Ennis€™ HITMAN
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