I do not want your cheap brainburning drugs. They are useless for work. And I am a working man today. I want vasopressin, washed caffeine, jumpstart, gingko biloba, guarana, and any intelligence enhancer introduced in the last five years.
From the opening scene, the drug-addled, chain smoking, futuristic Gonzo journalist Spider Jerusalem grabs your frontal lobe with both hands and demands your full attention on his halluncinatory adventures. The frantic energy and paranoia of Spider, amid his rapidly approaching "deadline", practically drip off the page.
The premise of this first volume is a rapid fire introduction to Spider and his reemergence on the city after a long "sabbatical'. He is a journalist and for the last five years has chosen to live in the mountains, completely cut off from society. After a pissed off editor calls demanding the two books Spider is contracted to write, he leaves his retreat and heads for the city where he can hammer out his books with the stench and chaotic din of this burned out metropolis as his backdrop. In one of many classic scenes, he fires an RPG into a diner on his way out of the mountains - trust me, this is cool with a capital C. After settling back into his familiar surroundings, he sets out to find a job...er, make that "take" a job, by force. Ultimately he enmeshes himself in a low-brow battalion of revolutionaries fighting for their rights to, well, "change" themselves. All this and much much more...no spoilers here!
This book is a trip, period. A strangely comfortable trip through a deeply disturbing version of our modern urban jungle, but with a very cool guide. Spider makes you feel safe, because you know he will be able to handle whatever situation he drags you in to, you are just sticking around to find out HOW he will handle it. He doesn't care how he gets it done either, just so that it gets done, and despite his peace-loving ways, ha ha...he isn't afraid to brandish the steel to make shit happen.
Along the way, you'll get to see a lot of what many people despise about the urban environment (I am a lowly suburbanite so I think all city things are scary). Ellis is definitely getting some social/political message across, but I typically try not to decipher these things so you'll have to find the message yourself, SORRY! He portrays the city as a post-apocalyptic cess pool of thugs, whores, and drug dealers/users. This is exactly what you expect to find though before Spider even takes you into the city, because HE is a drugged out weirdo and that is who you assume he will be hanging out with when he arrives. This is all okay though, Spider is obviously very comfortable haunting these dark, stinky hallways, and you are too...because you can't help but trust old SJ.
There are even a few softer moments that show what a truly compassionate person SJ really is under his tattoos, possibly a sign of things to come? He just has a certain charm about him that makes you feel welcome as he allows you to closely observe his skills in "investigative journalism"... I say "investigative journalism" tongue-in-cheek of course, this is pure "Gonzo" journalism. Every review ever written about this series has probably made some reference to the great Dr. Hunter S. Thompson, considered by many the Father of Gonzo journalism (I guess I am no different as I opened with this most appropriate of references). For anyone who has read anything by HST, this is, of course, a mandatory nod as the similarities between Spider and Raoul Duke are unmistakable.
Darick Robertson's artwork is great and masterfully complements the extremely bizarre storyline. All the scenes are drawn with an amazing amount of detail: Check out the inside of the back page, you could probably build whatever contraption (A/C unit or Meth cooker?) is behind Spider in this scene if you knew your way around a tool box.
I also loved the different ways you get to see Spider. A lot of books that I have read are sometimes lacking when it comes to seeing the full range of emotions in a character (on purpose many times of course), but not so with Darick's renderings. SJ goes through the full spectrum and in doing so, makes it impossible not to like him by the end of the book. You may not like him all the time, but at some point you'll be thinking you would like to at least share a brew with him at your local bar.
This is an award winning series, I wasn't exactly shocked that I loved the first book. Warren Ellis is considered one of the modern geniuses in the industry and reading this I can see why. I can't wait to get the next one, although I may need to bring some sanitary hand cleaner this time...
To totally plagiarize Zilla (he said I could!): It was all over when...