Fish and Cherries Productions

Creative content from a mad mind.


Ronin Reads – Transmetropolitan: Back On The Streets

Title: Transmetropolitan: Back On The Streets
Author: Warren Ellis
Artist: Darick Robertson
Type: Comic Book
Genre: Cyberpunk

One-time journalist Spider Jerusalem only wanted one thing: peace and solitude in a secluded mountain cabin away from people, media, and constraints against making his own ebola bombs. No such luck. An old publisher calls him to call in that book he’d promised, forcing Spider to return to The City, a cacophonous cavalcade of media, consumerism, and sensory assault. Unfortunately for Spider, this is where he thrives best. Armed with a new journalism job and an assistant, he aims to take The City down a peg and give its citizens a dose of what’s been absent for a long time: cold, hard truth.

Panic initially set in when I saw the forward written by Garth Ennis, giving the comic his full approval for being a tale told by a “kindred spirit.” For those who don’t know, Garth Ennis is known for writing rather mean-spirited comics. Now, in fairness, he wrote Preacher, which is one of my favorite comics. Also in fairness, he wrote The Boys, which I consider an unreadable dredge that is unpleasant on every single level. So when Garth Ennis declares someone a kindred spirit, my instinct is to run for the hills. Thankfully, my fears were unfounded: Transmetropolitan may be more cynical than the standard comic fare, but it still manages to channel that into a very twisted sense of humor that gives the book its identity.

Spider Jerusalem, who is meant to be a surrogate to the late Hunter S. Thompson, is not a nice or heroic man. He sets his three-eyed, two-faced cat to urinate on things and people that annoy him, he constantly belittles his assistant’s boyfriend, and his mouth is filthier than a sewer during a stomach flu outbreak. But as crude as he is, the city is far worse and downright offensive to the senses. The feel is set up perfectly in the first panel Spider enters The City’s print district: holographic advertisements covering just about every inch of the side of the road advertising everything from beer to trans-species surgery in the most neon way possible. Even further in the comic, there’s a sort of bazaar where people are peddling their religions, showing that literally nothing is sacred in this metropolis. I actually really like the fact that The City has no name, meaning that it could happen to any big city if left unchecked enough. Upon reflection, it kind of reminds me of the Once-ler from the original Lorax in a weird, twisted way, in that they’re both blank entities that the readers can supplant anything into where it would resonate with them.

That said, this book isn’t exactly perfect and the reason why comes down to the format. This is a collected trade paperback of the first six issues of the comic and as such, the book is two stories back to back. The first one is actually really engaging, concerning Spider’s return to the city and dealing with a boiling situation involving police brutality against transients (people who have altered their body by splicing extraterrestrial DNA into their genome). The second half of the book deals with Spider’s new assistant, Channon Yarrow, settling into her new job and dealing with Spider’s eccentricities, while Spider himself takes on the president, television, and the aforementioned religion bazaar. This half is a bit more slapdash and less coherent, making the whole affair very anticlimactic. That said, the part where Spider prank calls various TV shows is an absolute gem and the first half more than makes up for the lackluster finisher.

It’s hard to judge this particular book because it’s setting up things for the series rather than telling a full three-act story. It’s enough to color me interested, but it hasn’t exactly wowed me yet. Some people may be tempted to direct moral outrage at the character of Spider, but I see him more as a more adult version of that type of teenager that rails against anything that’s popular or mainstream, only he’s a little more justified in the story. In the end though, I find him ultimately harmless. I think the commentary is a lot more pertinent nowadays, especially in light of the recent controversies over police brutality. If you have a demented sense of humor, this will be right up your alley. If your sensibilities are a bit tamer, I would still recommend it to test the waters. As for me, I’m intrigued to see what comes next, so I guess Volume One has accomplished its mission.

Posted under Ronin Reads

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