The Spire

The Spire (2015)

Synopsis

At the Spire, a sprawling mountain of metal and stone in the middle of a radioactive desert, Shå, the Commander of the City Watch, is tasked with keeping the hodgepodge of forgotten technology and new biology safe.

When a string of grisly murders is committed just as a new Baroness of the Spire is about to be sworn in, Shå will have to find the killer and bring them to justice.

From: Diamond Comic Distributors, Inc.

Notes on This Title

The Spire depicts violent fantasy racism and a shapeshifting trans woman.

Awards

2015 Broken Frontier Award Nominee for Best Limited Series
2016 Eisner Award Nominee for Best Limited Series

Reviews

“Stokely designs the absolute heck out of this world in his deceptively loose and sketchy style. Probably the biggest feat is the balance he and Spurrier strike between silly and serious. This is a world, after all, where one of the leads is a grotesque wrinkled fairy who flies around by farting, and where ‘antiki-punk’ criminals break into rhyming couplets as they flee the police. These elements never break the sense that the world is a real place, though, instead creating an overall tone that feels — to borrow from another corner of nerdery — like Terry Pratchett’s Discworld books, in particular the City Watch series, which is about the highest praise I can bestow.” (Source: ComicsAlliance)

Interviews

CBR: “Murder, Xenophobia & Sci-Fi Action Collide in Spurrier’s ‘The Spire’”

Paste Magazine: “Strange Cities, Stranger Crimes and ‘Glorious Weirdness’: An Interview With Simon Spurrier on The Spire”

1 thought on “The Spire”

  1. This series is wrongly tagged as fantasy / superhero genre – it’s really post-apocalyptic scifi where society has devolved to a feudalist social structure and the many non-human races (who have some superhuman abilities, but hardly in a “superhero” kind of way) were originally genetically engineered as “tools” for humanity (because humans couldn’t breathe outside anymore), so the vicious racism/specism against them has the same origins as hatred against formerly enslaved people and economically exploited immigrants. Also, one enemy faction uses a scifi superweapon of old humanity that they recently found, which is a big plot point.

    The main character is clearly identified as lesbian, not just vaguely queer (aside of being called “lesbian” by her girldfriend, at one point she snarkily says her boobs “have never been touched by the hand of man” to tell a staring guy that he has no chance with her). Her also being a trans woman is a HUGE spoiler for the central murder mystery plot and only revealed in the last issue – the main character is amnesiac and doesn’t even know herself that she used to have a male body, which is the crucial piece of information needed to figure out the motive for the murders. But I suppose tagging that couldn’t be avoided, since it’s the purpose of this archive to find characters with rare queer identities.

    Also, this comic contains female nudity (boobs obscured by other body parts or hair, etc. but the characters are clealy completely nude and it’s in a sexual context), a sex scene that’s repeatedly shown as a traumatic memory (from the POV of the bottoming character in missionary position – it’s not extremely explicit, since the boobs of the topping woman are covered and the genitals are just out of shot, but it’s still clearly a sex scene).

    And that sex scene is a memory of SEXUAL ABUSE, so the comic really needs a warning tag for sexual assualt. (It’s not violent, but the sex scene itself involves something that is clearly meant to be severe emotional abuse, and later on it’s explained that the bottoming character was ordered to serve as the “plaything” of the topping woman, who was the absolute ruler of this entire species and also known to be quite insane and sadistic, and that the bottoming character was very unhappy while being in this ‘relationship’. And eventually they physically lashed out against their abuser and fled. So that’s really not consensual – more like sexual slavery, or at the very least equivalent to a general sexually abusing a soldier under their command.)

    By the way, this comic is a LOT darker than the cover image and the comparisons with Discworld will make you expect. (The general mood is similar to the Discworld Watch novels, with the main character being similarly cranky as Vimes, though rather more openly rude. But there is far more gory murder and genocide than in any but the darkest Discworld novels – the only one that comes close is “Night Watch”.)

    Weirdly, this comic censors the more common swearwords (there is a lot of swearing) and the boobs in nude scenes, like in a story aimed at a teen / YA audience, but the main character is a middle-aged adult (even if she makes herself look younger), the comic still has lots of very gory murder scenes, explicit sexual abuse, and a grimdark setting that involves a faction so xenophobic that it’s outright genocidal (graphic examples of which are also shown on-page). So I really have no idea what the publisher was thinking regarding the intended readership age group.

    I’d also criticize that the lesbian characters come across as basically male characters with boobs stuck on, because they both have moments where they make sexist statements about other women. And not even in a “internalized sexism” kind of way or in way that makes sense with the fact that the main character is trans. (The girlfriend at one point says something along the lines of “Why are you suprised about her not telling you everything? ALL women are mysterious and puzzling.” – which is something men say as an excuse for failing to empathize with women, but which no actual woman would ever say. And the main character calls her harsh new boss “Perma-PMS”, which is an insult that relies on the male perception that PMS just inherently turns all cis women into angry/bitchy/hyper-emotional “rage-monsters” due to hormones – when in reality, it’s simply that, just like any injured or sick person, women who are actively dealing with pain have less mental energy to spare on being patient and forgiving with others, especially with the kind of male bullshit behaviour that women are normally taught to put up with and still smile. So they are more likely to actually say what they would bite ther tongue over at other times – they’re not more angry, just more likely to show that anger instead of swallowing it down like a “good girl” is supposed to and like men expect. So again, this is not an insult that would make sense to a person who has been living in a biologically female body for decades and thus should know how PMS actually works.)
    I guess the all-male creator team simply didn’t realize that the writing at those points was sexist.

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