Burned-out private detective and self-styled shit magnet Michael McGill needed a wake-up call to jump-start his dead career. What he got was a virtual cattle prod to the crotch, in the form of an impossible assignment delivered directly from the president's heroin-addict chief of staff. It seems the Constitution of the United States has some skeletons in its closet: the Founding Fathers doubted that the document would be able to stave off human nature indefinitely, so they devised a backup Constitution to deploy at the first sign of crisis. In the government's eyes, that time is now, as America is overgrown with perverts who spend more time surfing the Web for fetish porn than they do reading a newspaper. They want to use this "Secret Constitution" to drive the country back to a time when civility, God, and mom's homemade apple pie were all that mattered.
The only problem is, no one can seem to find it . . .
So who better to track it down than a private dick who's so down-and-out that he's coming up the other side, a shamus whose only skill is stumbling into every depraved situation imaginable?
Oh, it’s worse than that. Crooked Little Vein is about the underground going mainstream. It’s about the outside coming in. It’s about Godzilla bukkake porn.
Well, maybe not just about Godzilla bukkake porn, but porn is a part of it. The weird parts that make up America is a part of it. This quote pretty much explains the whole book:
“You don’t just get to keep the parts of the country you like, ignore the rest, and call what you’ve got America.”
You’ve got to accept all of it, even the stuff that grosses you out. Anyway, besides the porn stuff (which does play a big part in the book, by the way. You can’t just skip it and still expect to understand what happens.), there’s the standard awesomely weird Ellis characters, including the surprisingly sweet male narrator and the dirty, corrupt government officials. All his characters are a little cynical (sometimes a lot cynical), but they’ve still got edges of kindness and hopeful optimism to them that keep me from hating everyone in the story. The sex scenes aren’t explicit, actually, but I’m not sure how much of a comfort that might be after running into the Godzilla porn-lovers.
Ellis’ America– minus the porn antics– is an America high on cremated dog turds: a little weirder, a little more prone to crazy, but still resonating slightly with “omg this could be real.” Take the crazy taxi drivers, for instance, that drive Michael around. I’m sure there are plenty of normal taxi drivers out there, but in CLV all the crazy ones came out and pissed all over it. I don’t think there was one non-crazy taxi driver in the book, and that’s because Warren Ellis’ America is populated by the ones who carve X’s in their foreheads. Wonderful, isn’t it?
Besides all that, Crooked Little Vein is well written, with an exciting ending action sequence, romance, and a lot of dark humor. I liked it, but I was already a Warren Ellis fan beforehand, so I’m not entirely sure how non-Ellis fans would read it. Punk kids might like it, actually, but I’m still not sure if they’d like it as much if they had read something else of his beforehand.
I would recommend, if you haven’t read any Ellis stuff, to start with something like Transmetropolitan or Fell. They’re really excellent comics, with pretty art and fantastic writing. (Transmet is my favorite Ellis creation ever, and I reread it every year.)
Though I suppose if you’re into Godzilla bukkake porn, you could just…dive right in.
Read: January 2009
Challenge: Read Your Own Books 2009 (#3)