April 17, 2006
Author: Warren Ellis (writer) & Darick Robertson (Artwork)
Category: Graphic Novel
Overview: Ever since Blade Runner, the city has been the host for all that is seedy, slimy and scum ridden. But nobody does the cyberpunked city like Transmetropolitan, and nobody covers it like Spider Jerusalem. Jerusalem shows us the hyper-real – dregs of the dregs. Worse than you can imagine, the authorities shit all over the poor, downtrodden and destitute. And in this future, the poor aren’t just poor now, they’re transient, non-human, and sometimes shocked from being revived from a 200 year-old cryogenically frozen head and reinserted into a new body! Yes, this is the dystopian future, and up-close and nasty! No perversion is too big, and no secret is too nasty to uncover. Transmetropolitan was originally published as 60 different comic books, but is now only available in 10 Trade Paperbacks (TPBs), with one additional greatest hit TPB. You can get them on Amazon for around $10 bucks a piece, or sometimes may be able to get them cheaper from Ebay.
The Setting: In an unspecified distant dystopic future, America has become a place where there is the City, and then everything else. The City (no name is given or required) is a humongous massive sprawl, where every type of lowlife imaginable eaks out their miserable existence as best they can. Half the population in the city is doped up on all sorts of mild-altering, hallucinogenic drugs available. Body modifications are all the rage. Extra breasts, werewolf teeth, transplanting one’s mind into the body of a dog – nothing is too weird or forbidding. Many people called transients are slowly transforming themselves into aliens by injecting alien DNA to replace their own. Deviant religions abound – everything from religions celebrating pedophiles to continuous sex are intermixed with judgmental rants and insane prophecies. The rich and powerful live an idyllic existence in this new word order. Corporations and politicians both have the same goals – to fuck the population for their own benefits and gratification. Media feeds of all varieties abound in the Transmetropolitan future. The City is fully wired and monitored so that every happening can be recorded and played back for national amusement. Talk shows have even gotten more deviant than they already are today.
It is in this environment that Spider Jerusalem conducts his unique brand of journalism. While most of the newsmen of his time cower in the shadows and happily receive crap spewed from public liaison officers, Spider goes amongst the people to find the story. Early on, many of the mini-stories appear to be unrelated sub-plots, yet in the end, everything is connected.
The Story: Infamous journalist, Spider Jerusalem, has been out of the game for five years, living in peace on his cabin in the mountains, when threats of lawsuits for unfinished work bring him back to the city. Spider has to write two books he’s already been paid for, but his money ran out long ago. To pay the bills, Spider gets a weekly column titled “I hate this city” at a daily newspaper called The Word, who pays his room and board. Spider starts covering the slime that is the city by all means available – news feeds, old contacts, and walking the worst neighborhoods to get up close and personal with the scum-ridden results of power gone awry. His columns bring down a corrupt president he calls the Beast, and then are targeted at torturing an even worse replacement Spider calls the Smiler. But more than that, they’re a vehicle for exploring this new, hyper-real society that Transmetropolitan brings us.
Spider Jerusalem: Spider Jerusalem is a Bastard. He chain smokes, pops every kind of drug he can find, masturbates constantly, pisses on anyone and anything, and has just about every kind of sickening human trait that humans can have. His weapon of choice is an illegal bowel disrupter, which causes people to immediately shit themselves into a stupor. Truly, Spider is the worst kind of bastard in that his pursuit of journalism is always the ultimate righteousness – the ultimate truth. No matter that thousands of people get wasted as a consequence of Jerusalem’s story.
The Truth Rules Everything: For Spider Jerusalem, the truth is all that matters. In Transmetropolitan, everyone and everything is a facade waiting to be uncovered. All politicians are not only crooked, they’re the worst that humanity has to offer. Everyone has an angle; a game they play that requires that they fuck up some poor underclass group in order to crawl to the top. And while exposing the truth is drives everything Jerusalem does, knowledge is transient. There are no truths of mankind in Transmetropolitan – the world as we know it has been deconstructed. All that’s left are the pieces.
The Filthy Assistants: Spider has two assistants: Channon Yarrow and Yelena Rossini. Both of them develop a low-hate (mostly hate) relationship with Spider over the course of the series. Well, that’s not quite true – they start off hating him (REALLY hating him in Yelena’s case), and over time, they begin to understand him. Channon Yarrow eventually becomes his body guard while Yelena becomes his journalist assistant, but both evolve deliciously over the course of the series. Eventually, Spider, Yarrow and Yelena become an unstoppable trio.
The Writing & Artwork: Transmetropolitan is a terrific collaboration between two unassuming folks in the comic industry that succeeded in shooting for greatness. Warren Ellis, the writer of Transmetropolitan, does consistently brilliant work throughout the series. His dialogue is creative and always interesting (see the page scan above for an example). Spider Jerusalem clearly has a unique voice – one that creates mood all to its own. Additionally, the overall story arc is intricate, well written and wonderfully constructed. Flat out, Transmetropolitan provides us some of the best cyberpunk writing ever. Perfectly meshed with this story is Darick Robertson’s absolutely terrific down and dirty artwork. He seems to continually experiment in issue after issue – constantly trying new looks and different approaches while keeping the core intact. Far more often than not, this experimentation gives Transmetropolitan an almost constantly refreshed look.
The Bottom Line: If you want to delve into one of the best graphic novels that cyberpunk has to offer, look no further than Transmetropolitan. The overall story is wonderfully constructed, and boasts extreme diversity in composition and approach while at the same time forming a coherent and satisfying whole. Once you start the first volume, you’ve have a hard time putting it down. By the time you read the second volume, you WILL be hooked for the rest of the series. As scary as these sounds, after reading just a few of their stories, you really will believe that the City is a real place. Sadly though, after you get familiar with Spider Jerusalem, you’ll notice yourself even more depressed than previously about the current state of our news media – they really don’t seem to be striving for the truth. In fact, they seem to be an integral part of the hypocritical bullshit that Spider is constantly exposing. If only Spider were real.