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Writer: Warren Ellis

Artist: Darick Robertson

Publisher: Vertigo (DC)

Synopsis: Welcome to the future. It has its share of problems, to be sure. Well, more than its share. Actually, it can be a real hellhole. See that guy over there? The bald guy with the funky shades, plastered in tattoos, shooting heroin into his eye? That's the guy who's going to fight to make things better. God help us.

How Is It?: Ever noticed how, in the typical dystopian SF world, everyone seems to be brainwashed into obedience? Not Spider Jerusalem. He's doing what good journalists have always done--taking apart the status quo with words, bringing the truth to light, and just generally trying to make the world a better place. Of course, since the guy is basically Hunter S. Thompson crossed with Walter Winchell, that doesn't neccessarily guarantee a noble, decent crusade, but rather a drug-crazed wade through some truly nasty business. What I love about this series is that, for all the bleakness and raging against machines, it's also an extremely quick-witted and enjoyable satire that's too funny to get you seriously depressed.

Back on the Street

Back on the Street

Synopsis: After three years "up a goddamn mountain", noted journalist and author Spider Jerusalem has come to the horrifying realization that he can't write any more. To write, he has to be in the City, smack dab in the centre of the madness that he hates so much. Which is too bad, because an uncompleted contract has just forced him to head back to civilization and do just that.

How Is It?: A quick-and-dirty (natch) introduction to the twisted world of Spider Jerusalem. It's the shortest tale so far, consisting of only three issues in which Spider returns to the city, gets a job, and immediately finds himself caught up in a riot that threatens to engulf the city. Despite Spider's many, many, MANY character flaws and overall psychoses, it's hard not to like him; indeed, this story has the unusual effect of getting you angry about political situations that don't exist yet. The dark humour is in full force, though there is a slight air of self-righteousness surrounding the series at this point. Robertson's artwork is nicely rendered and more appealling than you'd expect; this "gritty and edgy" story could have been told through spare, stripped-down visuals, but the professional artwork gives it an extra boost.

Lust For Life

Lust For Life

Synopsis: Spider takes on a new assistant and has an encounter with the Prez in "On the Stump"; we find out "What Spider Watches on TV"; Religion takes it on the noggin in "God Riding Shotgun"; Channon has a bad breakup in "Boyfriend is a Virus"; a woman of our time awakens from cryogenic sleep into a nightmare in "Another Cold Morning"; Spider leads a tour of the City's cultural reservations in "Wild in the City"; and the head of Spider's ex-wife is kidnapped in the 3-part "Freeze Me With Your Kiss".

How Is It?: We see the various adventures of Spider Jerusalem, and a lot of samplings from his columns, in this collection. Although the one that was aiming for greatness, "Another Cold Morning", falls a bit flat--I don't buy the premise that anyone awakened from our time into Spider's would automatically flip out--these are on the whole a great and very funny selection of stories. What's interesting is that Spider is not always right, and to Ellis' credit the world isn't as bleak and miserable as Spider paints it. What's more, there's a real streak of humanity in the relationship between Spider and his assistant Channon Yarrow. The final story succumbs somewhat to a flaw that will become bothersome in the next book: the "trails off before any of the plot threads come together particularly well" syndrome...but on the whole I'd recommend this for the humour and the vitriol of an imagination working at full throttle.

Year of the Bastard

Year of the Bastard

Synopsis: With The Beast running for re-election, Spider has a chance to toss a spanner in the works. But The Beast's opponent, a weirdo scumbag nicknamed the Smiler, doesn't seem like a vast improvement--and Spider isn't going to let things slide just because of his hatred of the President.

How Is It?: The first really major Transmet arc, the first one to really Make A Statement (basically, "politicians suck"). Ellis's over-the-top satire gets unquestionably silly here; either you'll go with the flow or you won't. Oddly, there isn't that much to generate controversy from a political standpoint here, unless you count the idea that so-called "working class politicians" are destined to be Hitler come again (in possibly the books' most whack-you-over-the-head-with-a-sledgehammer-obvious parallel). Also, it's a little annoying that nothing is done with an interesting thread (involving Channon) begun in the last collection--instead it just kinda ends by itself when it looks like Spider was going to be given a cause for him to get passionate about. There are, however, some clever insights into the political landscape...and as I said, it is *satire*. So if you find the idea that a Presidential candidate might create a similacrum of a previous, deceased, candidate to endorse his presidency to be ridiculous, you might want to stay clear of this one...and the series in general.

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