I just finished reading Transmetropolitan (Wikipedia warning: spoilers), the 60 issue comic series by industry veterans Warren Ellis (story) and Darick Robertson (art). By the end of the series run I was starting to wonder if someone over at DC had fallen asleep on the censorship switch. In an age where showing a pasty on TV during a super bowl halftime show gets a public uproar I’m surprised that a Warner Brothers label has the cojones to publish such a racy story line.
To be honest, both the language and artwork are more what I expect out of a no-holds-barred outfit like Heavy Metal Publishing rather than the tame DC Vertigo imprint. Although to be fair Transmetropolitan started it’s life on the quickly killed Helix line which was more of a mature reader Sci-Fi/Fantasy label than the “quirky” (and somewhat schizophrenic) Vertigo lineup.
What we usually get out of comics are yet more stories about super heroes, would be super heroes, people who are pretty heroic but not quite super, or dystopian anti-heroes with super powers. Warren Ellis forgoes the easy comic book cliches (this time around) and instead settles on writing about Spider Jerusalem a journalist who’s only powers are an incredible capacity for drugs and an uncanny ability to ferrit out the story.
Set in a fantastical not-quite-dystopia based on the modern day US, Ellis takes us through his fears and hopes for the future. Pervading the entire Transmet series is a sense that this is Ellis’s personal rant on what’s going on in the world given life through Spider and Ellis’s exceptional talent for telling interwoven stories.
The sometimes protagonist Spider is a take on journalist Hunter S. Thompson and the name is a nod to Spider Robinson. Both of these are pretty obvious, Spider Robinson being the only “Spider” anything that comes to mind in literature and Hunter S. Thompson having a larger-than-life writing style equivelent to the way Spider’s character is put to paper.
Transmetropolitan really worked for me as a graphic novel. Most of the “stuff” available currently is either poorly drawn (in the case of many manga series) or poorly written (in the case of many comic book series) or in some cases both. To the contrary Transmet has an unconventional story line and excellent, intricate artwork that resonates off the page. It’s definately worth the $7.99(USD) price of entry, and if you’re like me the rest of the series will be following shortly after.