Page 45 Review by Stephen
Although most readers become instantly addicted to the profane ragings of the easily antagonised political columnist Spider Jerusalem, there are some who come away bewildered by the bombast. Here, however, the first three issues are an emphatic change of style and pace as Jerusalem - against all odds - shows that he has a heart. Each self-contained chapter is bursting with speculative science about where humanity and the societies it inhabits might potentially go from here.
In the first Spider's assistant finds herself nursing a broken heart as the boyfriend Spider never liked ditches her in order to die. At least, that's how she sees it, but Jerusalem has prior experience of the transfiguration: a friend who's already successfully "downloaded" himself into a billion tiny machines, self-sustaining and strung together by lightning, so leaving his mortality behind. In attempt to give her closure he explains the process as they travel by a horse-drawn cab through the open parks of the future city, introduces his friend and then arranges for her to witness the event itself. Unfortunately the final moments are so traumatic that she ends up quitting to join a nunnery.
That's followed by two of Spider's columns. The second sees the journalist experiencing firsthand some of the reservations built to preserve ancient societies, whilst the first follows the story of one woman's attempt to preserve herself by electing to be cryogenically frozen, then revived when technology had advanced far enough to create for her a new artificial body. And it has. But society hasn't advanced far enough to care. She's dutifully revived as per contract -- then left to fend for herself in a traumatically alien world. It's touchingly done, Jerusalem/Ellis juxtaposing each remarkable feat of science involved in recreating her brain for a new body not only with the less than clinical conditions it's performed in, but also the less than impressed performances of those executing it in-between petty office politics, casual drinking and sex in the toilets. Oh yes, and when her husband died three years after Mary he was too far from America to be frozen himself, so Mary wakes up alone.
After that... it's back to the bombast as Spider finds himself the target of a death threat conspiracy involving the theft of his ex-wife's cryogenically frozen head, a longstanding French vendetta, a disgruntled target of Jerusalem's journalism and an apoplectic British Bulldog whom Spider once relieved of his prodigious wanger.
Tip of the hat to artist Robertson, not just for making the burlesque great fun, but also for the most gorgeous landscape portrait of a contemporary San Francisco Bay swathed in fog under the crystalline light of an early morning sun.
It may be one of those series like 100 BULLETS and CEREBUS where it's actually better to start on the second book than the first. It's more rounded with a wider range, more light and a little more compassion. A little more compassion:
"Yesterday, here in the middle of the City, I saw a wolf turn into a Russian ex-gymnast and hand over a business card that read YOUR OWN PERSONAL TRANSHUMAN SECURITY WHORE! STERILIZED INNARDS! ACCEPTS ALL CREDIT CARDS to a large man who wore trained attack cancers on his face and possessed seventy-five indentured Komodo Dragons instead of legs. And they had sex. In front of me. And six of the Komodo Dragons spat napalm on my shoes.
"Now listen. I'm told I'm a FAMOUS JOURNALIST these days. I'm told the five years I spend away from the City have vanished like the name of the guy you picked up last night, and that it's like I never left. (I was driven away, let me tell you, by things like Sickness, Hate and The Death Of Truth.)
"So why do I have to put up with this shabby crap on my doorstep? Now my beautiful new apartment stinks of wet fur and burning dragon spit, and I think one of the cancers mated with the doormat. It keeps cursing at me in a thick Mexican accent. I may have to have it shot.
"If you loved me, you'd all kill yourselves today."