The Short Version: The election is in full swing and Spider Jerusalem is trying everything he can to swing it one way or the other. Problem is, both candidates hate him and the public – despite loving Spider and his work – doesn’t give a damn about the election. And that’s going to put Spider in a hell of a dangerous spot come election day.
The Review: I needed a break from the book I’m currently reading, which is strangely rather interminable, and so I picked up another Transmet. It felt right, to jump into this one right after Year of the Bastard, seeing as the plot is starting to kick up now. But mostly, I was looking for something – some more of the harsh, brutal, and heartwarming truth that seems to seep out of these comics without anyone noticing.
The most incredible moment I’ve experienced in a comic book maybe ever (this might, indeed, include the most spectacular moments of Neil Gaiman’s Sandman and the stunning denouement of Jeff Smith’s Bone) was when Spider runs into the little girl on the street – the little girl whose mother had to pawn her favorite toy just to try and make ends come even close to meeting. And when Spider bends down and comforts the little girl, then buys her toy back… I was ready to cry. It was such a simple and human moment, overwhelming the frustrations we all feel when we think about being human. It was just elementally human – simple and correct and damned lovely.
This collection has a lot of anger to it. Spider is an inherently angry character but watching him take on both the President and the Smiler – and take out not an inconsiderable bit of his rage on the populace at large – we got to see something new, something a bit more weighty. We got to see a sort of disbelief, almost a panic: that people are so sterilized that they don’t care. It’s a reflection of our modern-day political process, of course… but taken the Swiftian satirical extreme: we get the politicians we deserve and while the President, despite Spider’s loathing for him, is actually vaguely well-intentioned… the Smiler is anything but. Election night does not go well, mentally, for Spider – and it’s a relief to see him rage against the night with Channon and Yelena, the new scum pushing back against the indifference of the old.
But I was left with a little less hope at the end of this book. Maybe it’s just the timing: nightfall, it’s suddenly quite chilly, etc… but I felt a distinct emptiness, a sadness even, as I finished this volume of the series. There’s so much wrong in this world – and Spider, as messed up as he might be, is just trying to make people want to change it. The fact that they don’t is… well, disheartening (I feel) barely begins to cover it.
That said, there are some cool moments. The reveal that Mercury has been covered in solar panels to provide energy for Earth was pretty neat – and Spider’s final monologue about winter (and the delightful snowball fight between him and the filthy assistants) is perfectly seasonally appropriate (well, I maybe missed it by a few weeks but it’s pretty darn cold so it still works). Plus, I like the growing dynamic between Spider and the assistants – the three of them are becoming closer, friends you might even call them as opposed to work associates. It’s nice to see Spider with a friend, especially since the last person he maybe considered befriending (Vita) got her head blown off – a moment that definitely shook our hero a bit.
Rating: 4.5 out of 5. A brutish and nasty volume, highlighting a lot of the darker and less-savory elements of this world Mssrs. Ellis & Roberston have created – but an important and a powerful one, perhaps all because of those highlights. The series is on a definite upward (albeit dark) trajectory – I can’t wait to see how the battle really kicks into high gear as the Smiler takes power and Spider pulls out whatever stops he can…