Page 45 Review by Stephen
"Journalism is just a gun. It's only got one bullet in it, but if you aim right, that's all you need. Aim it right, and you can blow a kneecap off the world..."
Campaigning journalist Spider Jerusalem is a very cranky man. Five years ago he sold his ass to a publisher for a two-book deal whose advance he squandered on escaping his fans by barricading himself up in a shack on a mountainside and surrounding it with mines, guns and ammunition. Spider is not a people person. So here is he is with not a word written, hairy and naked and covered in tattoos, the guns now bartered for drugs which have long since run out and the devil is wanting his due:
"That ignorant, thick-lipped, evil, whorehopping editor phones me up and says, "Does the word contract mean anything to you, Jerusalem?" I was having a mildly paranoid day, mostly due to the fact that the mad priest lady from over the river had taken to nailing weasels to my front door again."
And so it is that to avoid being sued Spider Jerusalem has to return to a noisy, stinking city he loathes but which feeds him exactly what he needs to write, and hunt down old friend Mitchell Royce, city editor of The Word, for a regular, paying column in which to scream truth to apathy and blind eyes turned. After that it's one long refrain of "Where's my fucking column?!"
Set in a future not so distant as to be unrecognisable from the present which it's passing judgement upon, this was Warren's first perfect vehicle in which to address his chief obsessions - technology, politics, drugs, sex and bowel movements - and do so in a foul-mouthed frenzy of highly cathartic rage. Apart from political and social apathy, his first targets included organised religion (Spider dressed up as Jesus at a temple of mad new religions, overthrowing the stalls of the money swindlers) and multi-channel tv saturation, all the hideous advertising that comes with it, and the state of what passes for journalism there:
"...You people don't know what the truth is! It's there, just under their bullshit, but you never look! That's what I hate most about the fucking city -- lies are news and truth is obsolete!"
It's also round two between him and the US President about to seek re-election, in a hotel toilet with a bowel disruptor gun. That one's going to run. But first it's live feed from a rooftop overlooking the massacre by the state police of a group of Transcients ("Transcience is all about the right to change your species"!) mislead by their dickhead and dick-led leader into attempting secession from The State.
It's a riot throughout, with the second half lightening up both comedically and visually with fewer panels bleeding off the page and the return of some white behind the panel borders. Darick undergoes a massive leap from the very first page of the fifth issue, his faces and figures more fully formed, but he's the perfect artist for this from the start, as are the two cover artists Geoff Darrow and Frank Quitely. It's packed full of background details from a Direct Action Baptist roaming the streets with a water cannon (I laughed a lot at that), hoardings advertising newly invented foods or fetishes, and the insignia of the Transcients, a smiley button with three eyes and a devil's tail smile.