Sep 16, 2015

The First Few Issues: Early Writings of the Giant Box of Comics

(This is the last of my old writings that I've found so far, so probably the last of the First Few Issues until I find something I wrote in crayon about my old Doctor Who Weekly magazines.)

Transmetropolitan, by Warren Ellis and Darrick Robertson
Overview and review of issues #28 - 30, by Tom Miller
Rating: 5/5 

The first thing you ought to know is that I'm not going to give anything away here. Not a thing. I hate reading reviews that tell you the entire plot of the (insert medium here ) that you're interested in, thus negating any reason to bother with it. That's what I'm going to try to do: give you a reason to bother with Transmetropolitan.

What you should know: Transmet has been going for 30 issues, 12 under the Helix imprint, and the rest in Vertigo. At the outset we meet Spider Jerusalem, a journalist of the near future and apparently some great fame. He is called back from a self-imposed exile on a mountain under threat of contractual breach, just the first thing to piss him off. And therein lies the key to Transmet. Things piss Spider off. Lots of things. However, unlike the majority of human beings, he does not let them slide off his back like water on a duck.
He says all the things you ever wished you could say, or thought of an hour after the fact, or were just too damned polite to utter aloud. And he says them better than you or I ever could. And he says them to all the people who've ever deserved it. The police, the government, the fanatically religious and just plain idiots. Along the way he manages to step on toes he perhaps shouldn't have, the ramifications of which are just now being felt. The early issues are collected in trade format. Back on the Street (issues #1 - 3) chronicles
a race riot in the city. Lust for Life (issues #4 - 12) is a series of stand-alones and one short multi-parter and includes my personal favourite issue, in which Spider spends the whole day watching television. Year of the Bastard (issues #13 - 18, Winter's Edge 2 story) is the beginning of a particularly ugly presidential campaign, and contains some truly chilling sequences. These books are followed by the six-part "The New Scum," the
ending(?) to the presidential arc, and a series of stand-alones that lead to .....

Lonely City: This story arc stands out for me as the best of 1999. I kid you not. I read a lot of comics, too many perhaps. When I finished issue #30, the last part of the story, I had chills. The same goes for the previous two issues. #28 makes a perfect jumping-on point for a new reader as we are given brief introductions of the main players in the series. It shifts into high gear with the most savage beating this side of Preacher that explodes into another race-related story. Determined to find out why the police insist on covering up this crime, Spider and his assistants harass officers of the law and attend volatile demonstrations. Anyone familiar with Ellis' writing will understand what kind of witty banter this involves. And it's always a treat to see Spider pull out the old Bowel Disrupter. The arc in general is perhaps not quite as verbose as the majority of Transmet, and has plenty of action and intrigue, another reason it makes such a good place for a new reader to start. "Lonely City" is an overview itself, a taste of things that have been and things to come, a brief glimpse into the world of Spider Jerusalem and the madness that surrounds him.

A quick word on the art. In Vertigo books you can generally count on some weird, pseudo-surreal art in a story that sometimes doesn't make a lot of sense. And that's what we like about Vertigo, but it's not so in Transmet. Darrick Robertson's art is deceptively simple. The characters look like comic-book characters, in a style that could easily fit into The Flash or JLA. My opinion is that Robertson's true genius lies in his backgrounds. I spend hours (seriously) pouring over his city shots,just to see what he's crammed onto the
billboards and ads. Amazing.

So now you're thinking "Damn, if I'd wanted to read an essay, I'd have stayed in school," but fear not, I'm done. If you're a fan of Warren Ellis and you're not reading this book, you should be, if only so you can gain a little more insight into the cool character that Jack Carter transformed into in Planetary #7. If you're not a fan, read the book anyway. It ranks as one of the most thought-provoking, touching and hilarious comics this addict has ever read.

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