Thursday, February 23, 2012

Reviews: Transmetropolitan: Back on the Street

I haven't done one of these in a while, but today feels like a good day to get back in the swing of things.

"Transmetropolitan" was a series that ran under DC's Vertigo title from 1997 to 2002. Transmetropolitan was written by Warren Ellis with art by Darick Robertson. I read this TP a couple weeks ago after my roommate was loaned the first four collections by a friend.
Set in a strange and fairly dystopic future, "Transmetropolitan"follows the events of the eccentric, and often violent, columnist Spider Jerusalem. Jerusalem has spent the last five years in seclusion on an isolated mountain. At the behest of a publisher, Jerusalem must return to the city and resume writing. Jerusalem looks up his old editor and threatens him into giving him a column. The rest of the TP follows Jerusalem on his hunt for storys around the unnamed city. Riots, politics, television,  and new strange cults are just a sampling of what he encounters in the first collection.

The future "Transmetropolitan" is set in is a madhouse. The city is massive, overcrowded and filled with the strangest assortment of "people" one could imagine. It is clear that Ellis wanted culture to take a nose dive for this book. Kids watch a charming Jim Henson-esque show called "Sex Puppets". People take body modification to new levels with people turning themselves into alien forms. Sentience is granted to almost everything. Animals are genetically modified in most ways imaginable. Ellis and Robertson give the reader a solid futuristic worldview that took several wrong turns along the way.

To inhabit this frightening and occasionally stressful world is the ever sarcastic Jerusalem. While he partakes in the culture, he readily mocks the world he lives in and it is clear that he understands that the world he lives in is pretty awful. Channeling the spirit of Hunter S. Thompson, Jerusalem is quick to fly off the handle, has a penchant for fire arms, and is a great and controversial journalist. He is quickly critical of everything he encounters and is constantly searching for a story. He is the quintessential mad man guide to an even madder world.

While the stories are interesting but occasionally a little hard to swallow. However, the way they are presented is episodic and interesting. Since Jersalem is constantly writing a new story, it seems only logical that the series would follow suit. In the media saturated world of "Transmetropolitan" it is fitting that few secondary characters stick around to much, there are just to many things happening in the city. While everything ties together by the end of a chapter, the stories may seem a bit schizophrenic at times, but that adds to the feel of the city. Jerusalem, while being generally unlikable in every way possible shows some depth through his lack of tact. It is clear that he has some sort of moral code, it just is not a straight line by any means.

I really enjoyed "Transmetropolitan". The dystopic element is both terrifying and fun, filled with dark humor. This book is one of the more original takes on comics I have read lately, and I can not think of another medium that could effectively display the madness of the world, while delivering an effective and interesting take on modern society and culture. I give Transmetropolitan: Back on the Streets a 4.5 out of 5.

-Peter