Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Graphic Novel Review: Transmetropolitan Vol. 4 The New Scum AND Vol. 5 Lonely City

I admit to feeling a little bit guilty as I write this because it has been ages since I read the material I'm sharing with you...and by the time this post actually goes live, more time will have passed between the actual reading of and blogging about. (I read these on April 9th and 10th.) Two reasons for the long delay come immediately to mind:

Reason the first:  I've had a few reads recently that I've wanted to write timely reviews for, so I've bumped them ahead in the queue.

The second: I'm a little unsure of the worth of reviewing anything after the first three volumes or so of a long comic series...if someone has made it this far into a series, they'll probably keep reading regardless of my review right?  And if someone is reading my review of the 4th, or 8th volume of a series, is that gonna make them want to read volume 1?  I can come up with good arguments for and against either question...

In the end, my answer for anything regarding the blog is this: If I have something to say about it I'll say it.

So, in regards to a long comic series; if I think there is something worth mentioning about a particular volume, I'll blog about it here.  So maybe that means there wont be reviews about volumes 6 and 7, but there will be for volume 8, or whatever.

Well, it just so happens that I do have something to say about these books, or maybe more accurately, I have something to say about my comic reviews and the actual reviewing these comics will be a good way to discuss that issue too.

One of my favorite blogs about comics is 4th Letter!, particularly the posts written by David Brothers, a guy who always seems to have intelligent, compelling and challenging things to say about comics and the medium.  Well, he recently wrote a post where he said:

"...if you write a review that’s got one paragraph of art discussion toward the end… mannnnnnn. I looked at the eight most recentreviews on CBR and seven out of the eight have a few paragraphs about the writing, one paragraph about the art, and then an outro. Like they’re writing from a template. Boring.

Listen, here’s a challenge to everyone who writes reviews, especially if you do this lazy words-first thing. Find a comic you like. Write a review that’s predominately about the art, and leave one short paragraph toward the end for the writing. Talking about art isn’t hard. You look at it, you examine how it makes you feel and how it portrays the action on the page. Take a close look and find something you like, and then talk about why you like it.

This is simple, and if you’re writing about comics, you should be able to do this. You don’t have to be fluent at art. You just have to be conversational. Comics is a visual medium. There are words, yes, but when you open a page, the first thing you see is the pictures. So how about you pay attention and talk about the pictures in something more than a perfunctory manner?"

I read these paragraphs and I though to myself: Fuuuuuuck.  I am so guilty of that.

Maybe that isn't true about every comic review I post, but it's true for the majority, and certainly, anytime I've spoken about the Transmetropolitan series, that has been the case for sure. Which is a total injustice because Darick Robertson is responsible for some really great art in this series.

What strikes me as most interesting about Robertson's art in Transmetropolitan is that his art is highly detailed, and expressive and evocative, but there are a lot of times when I don't like looking at it.  The guy is masterful at capturing and depicting the grit and the grime and the ugliness of life and there are times when he does this so well it can be painful to see because it is so true to life.  

There's a single page splash in The New Scum that has just burned itself right into my brain and refuses to be scrubbed away.  There's a bunch of single page splashes throughout the opening sequence of this trade, and they are meant to depict the pictures of the city that Spider Jerusalem has captured via his glasses.  The one that I can't get out of my head is of two men carrying a spitted dog between them and the caption says: "The dogmongers carrying their wares to market."  In the foreground there's a flaming oil drum and the eyes of the two men are just completely lifeless.

It's the lifelessness of the eyes that gets me because I've seen that look, that complete lack of spark in people's eyes before. Even though it is hard to see when I'm reading a comic to escape and forget about life, stuff, whatever, it is an incredible talent that Robertson possesses.  I can't really think of too many other artists that can really capture the human condition and all the craziness and sadness and tragedy that exists in cities, or the world.

I guess what I'm saying is that there's a rawness and realness to Robertson's work. Whether he's drawing Spider in a sumo-suit, screaming at the top of his lungs while charging his assistant, or drawing the absolute worst of police brutality, he brings life and all its joys and harsh truths to the page and that is what makes these Transmetropolitan books special, unsettling, memorable and ultimately worth reading.

For my money, it's Robertson's ability to bring Warren Ellis' nutty, futuristic world to life that really gives this comic an identity.  His art defines the series and raises it up to a higher level.  So, if you are reading this and haven't given the Transmetropolitian series a shot yet, I encourage you to do so.  It's a comic sereis that will challenge your comfort zone as much as it will thrill and entertain. 

No comments: