Writer: Erik Bitmanis

Artist: Ross Zucco

Letterer: Ross Zucco

Cover by: Ross Zucco

 

Hard Wyred, a self-published cyber punk venture from Erik Bitmanis (writer) and Ross Zucco (artist) returns with its third instalment. When last we left our hero Sam Wyerznowski, he had just made it inside the research facility, where previously in issue 1 a mysterious attack had taken place. Sam, the creator of the online world the facility sits in, was hauled out of retirement by Ms. Teller to investigate. Now, he faces an army of viruses, corporate muscle, and grand conspiracy. We checked out issue #3 to see could he make it out!

Our first impression of where the story of Hard Wyred is going comes from the cover itself. Here, a psychedelic pallet of volcanic reds, neon blues, and ethereal greens sparks a sense of action. At the heart of the cover, Sam gazes out in desperation. Below, he and love interest Katie lock hands over an electrified flower. The roots of the plant shoot out like wires in all directions.

It is in fact this story from the past involving Katie which dominates the issue. We see Sam as he was before, when he and his friend Allen’s online world still remained in its infancy. Katie, a co-worker Sam has been pining over, finds her way inside. Sam shows her the structure and functionality of the online world. Most importantly though, he shows her a replica of the Chilean “General Carrera Lake” he has built. This flashback acts as the first inkling of romance between the pair, but also the first wedge in Sam and Allen’s friendship. It also serves to further develop the character of Katie, who until now seemed a 2D creation in a truly 3D environment. For this reason alone, Bitmanis’ choice to move between past and present pays off immensely. The change of scenery also gives artist Ross Zucco more stuff to play with. In the opening issues, his art gave us a compelling introduction to the online world. Now, his pen focuses on very much on the characters, and the relationships between them flourish as a result.

In the present, Sam and Allen are trapped inside the research facility, surrounded by viruses. Allen admits he is working for the Worms, an organisation whose goal it is to take down the online world. The former friends realise they have no choice but to fight their way out. At the same time, in the real world, Ms. Teller tries to quash rumours that the disturbance to her online world was as a result of Worm terrorism. Of course Miranda, the Worm leader, continues to fan the flames. When Ms. Teller sends Theodore and his muscle to capture Sam at the research facility, it’s Miranda who interferes. Such action is consistent throughout issue #3. As compared to the first two issues, however, this heightened pace never distracts from the more thoughtful moments, especially those concerning Sam and Katie. In the past, they continue to explore the new online world together, though the ever-present risk of “unstructured data” hovers above their story. Indeed, when Sam and Allen chance upon the crucial USB key at the research facility, we are again reminded of the menace which may live inside the online world. What that menace is, and the Worms plan to do with it, remains to be seen!

Overall: 9/10

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