Monday, September 5, 2011

Review: Transmetropolitan v1 Back on the Street

Former journalist, Spider Jerusalem is living the life of a secluded artist.  He's got a house in the mountains, tucked away from prying eyes and a decent stash of drugs to keep him happy for a while.  He's also got smartguns, ebola bombs, and proximity mines to ensure this his peace and quiet is guaranteed.  All that peace and tranquility comes crashing down when Spider gets a call from his publisher, informing him that he owes his publishing company a couple more contracted books.  With no cash, and no inspiration to be found in the mountains, Jerusalem grudgingly decides that it's time to return to his natural habitat, the city.

Upon his return to his native throbbing mass of life and activity, Jerusalem scores a job writing articles for a city-wide newspaper.  Along with the new gig comes an apartment, a genetically engineered cat, and access to the mass of humanity that will inspire him to get writing again.  In this first volume, Jerusalem explores, interacts with, and creates an overwhelming air of chaos in such areas of racial tensions, politics, television, and religion.

I think it is fair to say that I was slightly under-prepared for just how nutty Transmetropolitan is.  Warren Ellis does a fantastic job of capturing the energy of a bustling futuristic city and then channeling that energy into the pages of Back on the Street.  The setting of this graphic novel reminds me of the gritty, violent futures of a Paul Verhoeven film, with a healthy dose of  Ellis' black humor.  Somehow, this is a graphic novel with an in-your-face attitude and a chip on its shoulder.  While reading this, I went through stages of shock, disgust, and joy as Ellis dragged me into his futuristic world.

The main character, Spider Jerusalem is clearly an homage to Hunter S. Thompson.  Spider's journalistic style felt very similar to that of Thompson, and his black humored, pull no punches writing.  Jerusalem seems like the perfect guy to hitch a ride with on his travels through the dystopian future Ellis has dreamed up.  He meets each fucked up situation with equal parts of anger, smarts, and black wit.  As far as main characters go, Jerusalem is a great driving force that pushes the narrative in some pretty interesting directions.

Darick Robertson, the artist on Transmetropolitan: Back on the Street is a guy who has been around the comics medium for a while, but is more or less an unknown to me.  Even though I unfamiliar with his works, I think it is safe to say he is the man for the job here.  Robertson totally nails the chaos and turmoil of  the story with his art.  Not only does he wonderfully display just how crazy, and fucked up the city is, he captures the crazy, fucked up-ness of Spider Jerusalem and his ever expanding range of nutty emotions too.

Robertson's art should also get some of credit for the Verhoeven-esqe feel this story has, as his art is reminiscent of the sets of such films as Total Recall and Robocop.  I appreciated the un-perfectness and heavily used feel to the world that his art gives off, and would take it any day over the shiny-and-new futuristic settings  that are too often found in science fiction.

I can't say that I was completely sucked in by this comic.  I did enjoy it immensely, both for the writing and the art, but there wasn't that magic bean that made me want to read the next volume immediately after.  I have no doubt that I'll read the next volume and possibly the entire series, but at this point in the series, I can't say that I'm completely invested in the thing.  Transmetropolitan: Back on the Street is certainly a great comic, and a pretty great piece of Warren Ellis writing.  It was a pleasure to read, but not as wholly engaging as I might have wished.   Sill, a great comic, and I'll definitely be coming back to this well sooner than later.

Grade: B

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