In this town, everyone's a bottom feeder...
Five desperate criminals are robbing one of the last remaining banks in Freedom City, a town devastated by the previous nuclear war. But these are no ordinary criminals. They are members of the House of Cards, an organization designed to help the less fortunate citizens of the city. In a place where the poor are separated from the rich, jobs are as scarce as clean water, and even the doctors are as corrupt as the politicians, the House of Cards are a final beacon of hope in an otherwise hopeless world.
Featuring: radiation fetishists, balloon people, mutant crabs, sail-bike road warriors, and a love affair between a woman and an H-Bomb. This is one mean asshole of a city.
Welcome to Crab Town.
This story contains examples of the following tropes:
- Arc Words: Each character's spotlight section includes a description of why they think the place is called "Crab Town."
- Beware the Nice Ones: Johnny Balloon comes across as nothing but meek and optimistic at first, but when he's told that his savings have been depleted and he's deep in debt because he's been charged for gravity he hasn't even been using, he snaps and pulls a gun on the bank teller.
- Big Good: The characters make references to the leadership of the House of Cards, known as the Four Aces, but they never appear in the story itself.
- The City Narrows: Crab Town is where the poor and undesirable end up living. There is one in every city.
- Companion Cube: Miss Doomsday is convinced that the Crab-Bomb contains the gasified soul of her husband and considers herself to be married to it. Everyone else considers her to have gone slightly insane.
- Covers Always Lie: A mild example, since in fact the story was written to justify the cover picture, so it really does at one point feature a woman in a form-fitting hazmat suit sitting on a nuclear missile... but the weird robot dog that's seen sitting by her feet on the cover does not exist anywhere in the story.
- Crapsack World: A nuclear war has devastated the world, leading to a depression that might just be never-ending.
- Downer Ending: Not only does The Plan not succeed, but the entire city and every single character is destroyed in a nuclear explosion.
- The Driver: Little Sister, a.k.a. the Two of Diamonds. As a master of the sail-bike, she's responsible for the team's getaways.
- Fan Disservice: The descriptions of the porn that Nine's porn ring produced. Let's just say it was for a... specialised clientele.
- Fantastic Drug: Crab shit, a mossy green substance that grows on the belly of the black sewer crabs that infest Crab Town and which gives you an euphoric high if you smoke or consume it. It's radiactive and will eventually kill you, but many residents of Crab Town are past caring about such things.
- Fantastic Racism: Everyone despises balloon people and sees them as lacking human worth, to the point where no one bats an eye if one is killed right in front of them. To a lesser extent, people from the nicer parts of town see people living in Crab Town as being criminals and malcontents who should preferably stay out of the way of decent people.
- Five-Man Band: Jack's team.
- The Hero: The Jack of Spades, who put the team together by offering everyone a better future.
- The Lancer: The Nine of Hearts, Jack's lover, who started out as his adversary.
- The Big Guy: Sailboat, a.k.a. the Four of Clubs. None too bright, but likes to improve the world by hitting things. Little Sister, a.k.a. the Two of of Diamonds, also fits the trope in her own way.
- The Smart Guy: Miss Doomsday, who was once the assistant of a great scientist.
- The Sixth Ranger: Johnny Balloon, who joins the team pretty much by accident by drawing a gun on a bank teller in frustration at the same time as the others commence their bank robbery.
- Gas Mask Mook: Jack's team dress up in suits with gas masks to hide their identities during the heist.
- Little Miss Badass: Little Sister, fifteen years old but already a hardened gang member by the time she joined the House of Cards.
- One-Hit Point Wonder: If balloon people get injured in any way, they'll pop and die.
- Out with a Bang: Miss Doomsday accidentally killed her husband by having sex with him, putting so much pressure on his balloon body that it popped.
- Playing Card Motifs: Each member of the House of Cards is assigned one card from the deck to be used as their alias. A member's colour indicates their specialty: spades have book smarts, hearts have street smarts or people skills, clubs are the muscle and diamonds are cunning and agile. Jacks are team leaders, Queens and Kings appear to be scientists and specialists, and the Aces are in charge of the organisation. The mortality rate among the group is high enough that there's never any risk of it having more than 52 members at the same time.
- The Pollyanna: Johnny Balloon, who believes strongly in keeping his good cheer even though his life is so miserable that he can't even afford gravity anymore.
- Senseless Sacrifice: Johnny Balloon dies by leaping in front of a bullet aimed at Little Sister. Of course, since he's a balloon, the bullet just pops him and then passes right through to kill Little Sister anyway.
- Unspoken Plan Guarantee: Played with. Jack never told the rest of the gang what The Plan was, only saying that if he told them about it they'd never agree to do it. When he is killed they end up having to guess what his endgame was supposed to be, and we never do find out whether what they end up doing was what he intended for them to do.