The Short Version: Spider Jerusalem is broke and five years late on a book contract, so he leaves his mountain solitude and returns to The City – a wretched hive of scum and villainy. He gets cleaned up (moderately…) and gets a reporting gig – and finds himself right back in the thick of things, rousing the rabble and making those in power quietly terrified.
The Review: A terse recommendation of “you should read this. you will love it.” from a co-worker at my new job (who recognized my TARDIS iPhone case) spurred me to pick up this first-of-ten graphic novel. And I was hooked from the very first page.
It’s an indeterminate American future, although one that doesn’t really look all that implausible. Having seen 15 years go by since the first issue, it’s remarkably still plausible – much like The Matrix is still a fixed point in the development of cyberpunk and sci-fi dystopias. There’s something timeless about it, the Blade Runner-esque neon, the “maker” (which does exactly what it sounds like), the transient population (a group of people rewriting their genetic code to become aliens)… it’s so unique and yet so connected to the big monoliths of sci-fi that I’m in thrall to this future New York. Because it is. Never says so but I mean come on. It’s the view of New York as it once was (the ’80s) and as it will be again (in the future).
It’s funny as hell, too. Spider is clearly (both visually and in his attitude) an homage to the great Gonzo himself, Hunter S. Thompson – and some of Thompson’s bitterly funny humor clearly left a mark on Ellis. Spider is a bastard but he’s one of the good ones – and at the very least he’ll make you laugh. I mean, just those panels of him smiling as he lets off some crazy notion or scheme… I’d follow him. I’d read him. Damn right I would. He’s a character for the ages and he’s already indelibly imprinted in my mind.
This issue(?) is clearly a set-up issue. Spider coming back to civilization after five years in the wilderness (ebola bomb in the toilet, by the way? what the WHAT? I love it) allows us to be introduced to this new world without actually getting an introduction: we’re not told everything but Spider has missed enough development of tech and what-not that we’re able to tag along and pick up most of what we need to understand via Spider’s re-education. The seeds of what I’ve been told the plot will be are sown here as well: there’s going to be some bad juju between Spider and politicians, which is always one of my favorite plots in anything. But I will say that not much in terms of cohesive plot happened here. Each issue inside this collection had a rather self-contained plot, for the most part. Spider comes back to the City, Spider reports on the Transients, Spider goes after the President, Spider goes after religious cultists. I’ll admit that I wanted a little more arc to the stories… but it looks like I’m going to be getting that in future volumes, so I’m not totally upset about it.
Rating: 5 out of 5. Just a damn awesome intro to a series I may’ve never otherwise experienced. I’m not saying too much more right now because I think I’m going to have to go out and drop a chunk of change and get the other 9 volumes and just plow through them. Then perhaps I’ll combine this into a big ol’ single-series post. Because I think I’m gonna have a lot to say. But for now, I can tell you this: if you’re a fan of sci-fi or cyberpunk or just a damn good story, this is a series for you. Embrace the comic (graphic novel) format and just have fun with it. I sure did.