The graphic novel has often flirted with the punk aesthetic of "Anyone can do it." It's what drove the Hernandez brothers to create, and they remain the most successful expressions of that notion, until now. When one guy, armed with a bunch of copyright-free clip-art and some web space, decided he wanted to make a commentary on post-9/11 American politics. And so, with a cheap graphics program and some Seventies-looking clip-art images of office workers, he made a series of comic strips that just blasted the crap out of US foreign policy and the social aspects of the 9/11 aftermath. The brilliance of it is that he said what everyone was thinking and wasn't prepared to say, and he said it raw and unedited. It was hugely angry, perceptive, and very, very funny. And it became the web's first real comics phenomenon. The hit-rate blasted the hell out of his bandwidth. I hate to think what running GET YOUR WAR ON cost him, because people swarmed on it in their hundreds of thousands.
This book, collecting the majority of the strips so far, is an amazing artifact; not only is it one of the few successful transferences of web material into print, but it clearly shows the guy growing into the work and, in a few short months, sees him go from clunky-but-funny into someone totally in control of his materials and timing.
And he's got no shortage of fabric to rend. The segue from the war in Afghanistan - and our two paranoid office drones asking each other if Al-Quaeda are impervious to bombs and possibly all immortals - to the Enron collapse is madly funny and a perfect gift. And when things go quiet? Voltron turns up. With Tom Ridge from Homeland Security hot on his heels.
If you thought that Bill Maher actually had something to say about 9/11, this book will hurt your poor weak little brains. So you should probably buy this anyway, to find out what dissenting speech in comedy actually sounds like.
Warren Ellis has written around thirty graphic novels, comics, prose fiction, journalism, videogames and screenplays. Sometimes he take photographs. He also creates and co-creates websites, including this one. He has awards and stuff, he's been in big magazines and newspapers, and he's been published in Nature, which he always mentions because it makes him laugh. He's on the web at warrenellis.com and diepunyhumans.com.