We’ve reached the end of an arc in Livewire, which is always the make or break point for any comic. In just a few pages, a storyline spanning months or even years of buildup has to resolve itself in a manner that is satisfying, complete, and exciting. The latest issue of Livewire hit comic shelves yesterday, the finale of her current run and the culmination of storylines that reach back several years. Does it do everything a finale should do, ending the current story so that Livewire can move on to and exciting set of challenges? I think it does, but…it’s complicated.
Last issue, we ended on something being taken from anti-psiot Senator McCoy’s family and a shift in Livewire’s relationship with Councilman Wright. There were a lot of balls in the air going into this issue, and it tries very, very hard to catch them all. Point-by-point, many of the loose ends ARE explained, but the through line of them is a bit disjointed. For starters, the issue begins with now-Senator Wright’s first big speech to the country after his election. We’ve seemingly jumped forward in time very suddenly, and it’s a tad disorienting. But once we find our bearings, we learn that he’s gotten his hands on something of Livewire’s, something she’s been keeping behind her strongest barriers: the truth about Harbinger (which, if you’ve not read anything before this run, is less of an impactful revelation.)
After this discovery (and fighting off yet another copy of herself from a seemingly mysterious signature), we get probably one of my favorite things in comics: the bait-and-switch. Right after we learn that SOMEBODY knows something based on Amanda’s intel, we cut to the LAPD preparing for a raid. The sergeant emphasises the target is dangerous, and a pair of cops speculate about the size of their prize. They also mention Livewire herself. But when the door opens and the cops make their arrest, they’re nowhere near Amanda. Instead, they’re outside of the home of former Senator McCoy. It’s revealed that while in office, McCoy embezzled money and funnelled a great deal of it to Toyo Harada (basically the Magneto of Valiant, who you can read more about here). This is apparently the dirt that Wright and his assistant have been gathering for 12 issues, the thing that required all the setup, the leaked info that Amanda was framed over.
And then it sort of ends. By the time all of the above is resolved, there’s only a few pages left to actually address things. Unfortunately, the pacing of the issue means this pretty much is just Livewire piecing things together as an infodump for the reader. Along with it, we get Amanda coming to grips with all that she’s done and where she stands now. With just a little trust in the system and some digging, Senator McCoy has done more for psiots than her secrecy and anger has. At the end she seems happy, meeting with fans and old friends as she walks home. But there is a bit of unease there that will most likely linger into the future.
How It All Stacks Up
I can legitimately say that this run of Livewire has been a great catalyst for my interest in comics to come back. Throughout this run, it raised some fascinating questions about protest, revenge, and civil rights. It also had some truly engaging writing, particularly when McCoy and Amanda would square off in their latest little conversation. Characters had a lot of humor and charm to them that helped me get invested, even though this was probably my first experience with Valiant since I was a kid. Plus Livewire has such a cool superpower that allowed for some very neat visuals and inventive uses. I really wish there was more superheroic stuff in this series, however, because it felt more like a political thriller than anything else and while it handles it well…damn it she’s a superhero. She has a costume! Do superhero things! The only genuine gripe I have about the story is the pacing, which could at times be borderline glacial. When there’s a need to dive deep into characters and plot, that’s fine, but Livewire spent so much time playing catch up that the ending of Issue #12 felt…weird. We’ve had eleven issues of McCoy being slimy and sneaky, of Amanda being justified in her distrust of the system, and genuine tension regarding the success of McCoy’s rehabilitation campaign. But at the all of that just…resolves. The good guys were good, the bad guys were bad, and Amanda was just being paranoid. We’re told, like Livewire, that maybe we should trust the system.
Which is…uneasy, to say the least.
But I think there’s something interesting being done there by the creative team. Livewire doesn’t get the ending she wanted and, really, neither did we. Who expects the big bad in a superhero comic to go down for embezzlement? Even Lex Luthor would have a power suit to use before he got arrested. And there is progress made, for Amanda and for us, but was it worth getting here at all? In the end, was any of it worth it? The creative team leaves that up to us to decide, and dammit if I haven’t been wrestling with that question since I turned the final page.