Hey everyone, I’m heyra667, otherwise known as The Comics Guy. Why the Comics Guy? Because I have a disturbing lack of imagination when it comes to names. But I digress.
I’m going to work on a default disclaimer for these reviews, but for this one, I’m just going to be frank with you guys. I’m going to try not to spoil things, but it will happen. Not the big shocker moments, nor the big emotional moments. But the little stuff? Those are fair game. I’m only going to spoil if I need you to know something in order to illustrate a point, but it might happen. You have been warned.
Now, lets begin.
When I first started listening to LEOG, I heard them mention a man named Spider Jerusalem. I then thought to myself, What kind of name is Spider Jerusalem?
One does not commonly associate the holy city of Israel with arachnids. So I looked him up on Wikipedia, and this is the picture I found staring back at me.
And then two thoughts ran through my head. The first, of course, was What the fuck?
The second, following shortly behind, was I need to check this out.
And I did, and it was great.
The first thing you should know about Transmetropolitan is that it’s a mature book. There’s a decent amount of nudity and violence. It usually doesn’t take center stage, but when it does it’s highly explicit. But the book is mature in another sense as well. It’s smart, funny, and politically aware. When I talk about maturity, I talk about mental maturity. I read Volume 1 when I was fourteen and loved it. But, say, a frat boy who lives for nothing but popped collars and the next keg won’t get nearly as much out of it.
So, since we’ve covered that, lets get to the meat of the review, the specifics of Transmetropolitan Vol. 1
Yes, I’m using the same image. Yes, I’m lazy, why do you ask? Lay off, I’m doing this for free.
Transmetropolitan has something I find fairly rare among comics. An opening arc that is not only fully realized, but actually BETTER than the subsequent story arc. But that’s a story for Vol. 2.
The story opens with Spider coming down from the mountain after five years of seclusion. What’s the mountain, you ask? It’s a mountain. What the fuck did you think it was? Spider piles his stuff into his car and heads down to the city after his editor calls him up to fulfill his book contract. So Spider heads down to the city, fairly desperate for a job. So naturally, he bursts into his old newspaper all barrels firing. And I mean that quite literally. He’s shooting and blowing up the office. This opening gives you a good idea of Spider’s character. He’s caustic and he’s nasty. He’s a sharp motherfucker who doesn’t take any crap from anybody. The one thing he cares about is the truth, no matter who it hurts.
And yet he’s someone you can’t help but like.
The first three issues in the trade are an incredibly elegant introduction to the story, comprising the tale of the Transient Riot and Spider’s return to the city. The art alternates beautifully between colorfully frenetic, darkly gritty, and a mix of the two. The panels are crammed with detail that fleshes out the futuristic chaos of the city fantastically. Darick Robertson did his job fantastically, and his work can only be matched by the quality of Ellis’s writing. Spider’s dialogue is endlessly entertaining, and the other characters are written well, reflecting the strange sensation of being caught up in Spider’s insanity. Ellis also puts on paper in this arc one of the immortal truisms of our world: “Trust the fuckhead.” The only weak points I can find in this opening arc are some conspicuous inconsistencies in the art, especially surrounding Fred Christ’s facial appearance. But it’s not enough to hurt your enjoyment of an excellent series. And the final issue, which is comprised of Spider writing his first heartrending article on the roof of a strip joint, is the most satisfying moment in a comic I have ever seen.
Now we move on to the second half of Vol. 1, the three issues that I’ll call one-shots, because while they help develop the characters, they don’t really need to be read in order, and some can be abandoned entirely. Not that I recommend that, mind you.
The first of the three, titled “On the Stump,” is the most plot-oriented of the three, introducing Spider’s assistant, Channon Yarrow,
and the incumbent president, known only as the Beast.
Other than shooting the Beast with a bowel disruptor, a fairly amusing scene in and of itself, this issue doesn’t really do much other than cement two important characters and Spider’s views on politics in a hysterically violent rant. The plot is kind of weak, but mediocre Transmetropolitan is still a damn fine comic, and this issue is so important character-wise that you kinda have to read it. So discount my earlier statement about one shots. I’m dumb sometimes.
Thankfully, the last two issues in the trade, “What Spider Watches on TV” and “God Riding Shotgun” are both top-tier. “What Spider Watches on TV” is, of course, a commentary on television. Both Ellis and Robertson get to stretch their creative muscles, Ellis with his crazy shows like Anthrax Cat and the Sex Puppets and Robertson with the bizarrely complex dioramas that comprise a TV screen. The issue is fantastic in a structural sense as well, using repeated frames of the same art, a trick that most artists use to save effort, as an excellent tool to pace the issue and put the reader in Spider’s shoes. Funnily enough, Spider himself gets new shoes himself, called Air Jesus. And speaking of Jesus, up next is the religion issue.
See what I did there? Masterful transition. Aw yeah.
Moving on, the religion episode isn’t quite what you’d expect. More than criticizing the religions, it criticizes the evangelists and leaders, that are portrayed as blatantly corrupt and fake. There’s also a genuinely touching moment between Channon and Spider, which is a nice look at his softer side. All in all, it’s an issue that not only assaults religion, but does it with surprising tact and that bizarre sense of humor that seems to permeate Transmetropolitan.
Let me make this abundantly clear. BUY THIS TRADE. There’s a reason I haven’t listed many faults. Because there really aren’t many, and certainly none that would come anywhere close to damaging my enjoyment of the book. Everyone needs to check this out at least once, give it a chance. Volume two? That’s another review for another day.
This is the Comics Guy, signing off.
By the way, does anyone else imagine Spider with a Scottish accent?