Private eye Mike McGill is down on his luck, living in his New York City office and trying to kill the rat using his coffee cup as a urinal when he receives a visit from a mysterious government official bearing a mission, a handheld computer, and an extremely large expense account. The mission: retrieve the "Secret Constitution," which will enable the government to restore probity and decency to that slice of Sodom situated between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans.
The sordid details of that Sodom should be familiar to longtime readers of Warren Ellis' blog, where the author frequently posts eyeball-searing images of unorthodox body modification, such as scrotal saline inflation. Longtime readers of Ellis' comic-book work will recognize McGill as a variation of Transmetropolitan's protagonist, Spider Jerusalem, a Hunter S. Thompson-inspired gonzo journalist: McGill's role, like Jerusalem's, is ultimately to both indulge in depravity and to uncover it.
Here's the put-up job: Ellis' supposed descent into the Inferno actually valorizes the degenerates and excoriates the duplicitous moralists who would limit their freedom. Crooked Little Vein contains a profoundly ethical worldview, from a radically libertarian perspective. Ellis is far less disturbed by macroherpetophile bukkake than by a hypocritical, manipulative government that would restrict it. The rage of his hedonistic antiheroes is primarily a moral rage at a world awash in dishonesty.
Truth-tellers in Ellis' universe, in addition to his protagonists, tend to be young women on the margins of society. Two such women appear in Crooked Little Vein, the first a shaman who prepares Mike for his journey:
She had... well, I thought it was Sharpie or makeup around her eye, at first. A wobbly circle, with stitch marks crossing it, drawn like the sort of roundish patch you'd see sewn into teddy bears or old denim jeans. She sort of came to as I walked around her, smiled as if she'd just woken up, and rubbed her face. The marking didn't smear. It was tattooed on. (pp. 19-20)
The more outrageous, the more unprintable that Ellis is, the funnier he is as well. In this sense, Crooked Little Vein is its own perfect argument, evidence that freedom is more valuable than repression. But don't tell Warren Ellis that he's not a degenerate filthmonger; he doesn't want you to know.