How Lee & Kirby's "Fantastic Four" Birthed the Marvel Universe, Part 1
Today’s entry is written by Ian Astheimer.
It’s time to reward Marvel for trying something different. (Archive.)
In 2005, as part of the Marvel Next line, Quesada loosed Adam Warren and Rick Mays on the House of Ideas. The result was Livewires, a six issue tour de force stampede through the technological backwaters of the MU.
And, it was crazy good, like Nextwave but with less emotional detachment and more robots…er…”semi-autonomous artificially intelligent limited-nanofuntion, humanform mecha constructs.”
The cast of constructs (top, from left) featured Cornfed, the oversized southern gentleman who cannibalized felled robots, regurgitated nano-skin, and handled most of the team’s hacking; Social Butterfly, the ever-effervescent party girl who used pheromones, flirtation, and a little bit of brain manipulation to gather info and intel; Gothic Lolita, the “J-Pop fashion package” who enjoyed smashing and bashing; Stem Cell, the newly activated tech specialist whose default programming made her all too human; and Hollowpoint Ninja, master of stealth, weapons, ambushes, and brevity.
Together, the operatives of Project Livewire targeted other top-secret, quasi-governmental projects — like Thermogentech, which used cells from Jim Hammond to create the brightly burning pyronanos:
The series was, surprisingly, steeped in Marvel lore. The Livewires were, in fact, the next step in the evolution of everyone’s favorite fake-out, the Life Model Decoy. Mannites cameoed. A sentinel went berserk. Agents of AIM appeared. The Real AIM, a splinter-cell of Advanced Idea Mechanics, was impersonated. The villain, revealed at the end of issue #4, had a very familiar face. And, the grand finale went down inside the hull of a decommissioned SHIELD helicarrier.
The climax was positively explosive. Equally explosive? Funeral by bomb:
For all the relentless action, though, the story was truly about Stem Cell’s quest to become less human, to embrace her artificial abilities and ultimately save the day. She was the reverse Pinocchio, a “real” girl who had to divorce herself of fears and emotions.
The scene in which she took a screwdriver to her left eye to enact that modification was harrowing and heartbreaking.
Here’s the cover to that ish:
Although final issue ended on a hopeful note, with plenty of potential for further adventures, Warren — on his deviantART page — announced that his follow-up pitches never went anywhere, due to the series’ low sales.
The book is definitely worth a look.
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