The Short Version: It all comes down to this. Jerusalem vs. Callahan. It’s Spider’s last shot before the disease knocks him out – and it’s Callahan’s last shot before Spider takes him down. Only one comes out of it – and the City’ll never be the same.
The Review: I have to commend Mr. Ellis for keeping the finale suitably low-key. This is not to say that it’s low-intensity or anything – oh, don’t worry, there’s a whole lot of action contained herein – but rather that he kept the final confrontation subtle. He kept it between the two men, which is what (to some extent) it always has been. It’s been about two men who are opposite versions of effed-up narcissists – and the question is, which version do you want to back?
For me – and for the American populace in this series, mostly – it’s not even a question. Pick the guy who tells you the truth, who gives away the power instead of hoarding it. Spider Jerusalem is a hero, President Callahan a villain. It’s as simple as that and oddly enough you never feel like either of them need further clarification. There are people in this world like both of them – this far-future dystopian view of our fair country isn’t too hard to imagine or even just extrapolate. I mean, the whole “killing the cat” thing was (I think) meant to call up comparisons to Nixon – as was the dress meant to call up Clinton. But taken further, turned darker… the logical progression of human nature?
There’s a line towards the end, where Royce says to Spider that people are actually giving the Smiler money for his defense. And the two of them laugh about it, how ridiculous and awful it is – because that is all you can do. Think about it: something so ridiculously awful happens, all you can do is laugh in disbelief – because that’s the only way you can actually feel good coming out of the situation. And you know what? At the end of this book, I did feel good. Because while Spider is a rather repugnant human being in many ways, he’s also a good man – and it was nice to see him finally get free, to the level that he truly wanted/needed. It’s a solid question whether or not he’ll stay that way… but, then, what’s life without a little uncertainty?
This final compendium includes two collections of Spider’s writings from The Word – he did have a contract, after all – and there are some lovely observations there. You might be tempted to skip them, skim them – but don’t. The story might be over but the character of Spider Jerusalem has never been more clear to me than he is in the dual light of those final writings and the final panels of the series. Lots of people who live in the City – which, I think it is safe to say, we now call “New York City” – hate it here. But god, we love it too. We remember why we love it in particular moments just as Spider does. And we rage against it, the filth and corruption and idiocy… but we fight the good fight against it too. One moment, where Spider lambasts parents for giving their children technology and not teaching them anything… could that be more prescient? And when he talks about how last night he went out to a bar and got good and drunk with his assistants and friends – and how that was just a damn good night… could anything be more accurate to the way we all live? And eventually, even the most stalwart City-dweller will have that moment where they realize it is, perhaps, time to leave – time to go somewhere nicer, where you can have greenery and plant things and sculpt out of nature. Because that’s how it is meant to be. The West Coast is weird, the Mountains are where we go for peaceful final days, and the City is where life is.
Rating: 5+ out of 5.
I hate it here. And I hate all of you.
Spider Jerusalem taught me those words – and taught me that they can actually be the warmest, most affectionate things anyone can ever say. May the truth continue to kick you in the face and leave you bleeding. I think that’s all we can ask for, really.