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Friday, 11 June 2010

Transmetropolitan volume 1: Back on the street

Writer: Warren Ellis
Penciller: Darick Robertson
Inks: Keith Aiken, Jerome K.Moore, Ray Kryssing, Dick Giordano
Colour and separations: Nathan Eyring
Letters: Clem Robins
Publisher: Vertigo

What's it about?
Welcome to the future.  Here we have makers and base blocks to create anything you require, designer drugs that have no adverse side effects, newsfeeds a thousand times more pervasive than twitter, facebook or linkedin, and genome treatments to give you lizard skin or eagle feathers for a month.

This is no utopia of peace, sun and dreams.  There's also machines high on hallucinogens and Ebola cola to rot your face and quench your thirst.  You can measure the wealth of a neighbourhood by the absence of litter - rich folks have makers, poor folks have garbage scavengers, really poor folks have litter.

In short, it's just like today, minus the pretence of respectability and with a lot more tech.

Enter Spider Jerusalem, journalist hero.  He hates fame, selfishness, greed, depravity, politicians, pollution and people.  Except when he's being greedy, selfish or depraved of course.  He's a mean spirited bastard who would rather shoot you through the head with a deadly virus then piss on you if you were on fire.  He despises the world and dreams of it seeing it burned down.  Except then he'd miss the drugs, guns and booze.

The actual plot of this book centres around Spider investigating why a group of transients (humans who have spliced themselves with alien DNA) have seceded from the city government.  Be warned, it's not traditional journalism as you know it.

What's good about it?
It's escapist filth.  It's violent, graphic, imaginative and funny.  It's a scathing critique on the worst parts of today's (western) culture.

This is for anyone angry with the current state of society.  The transient plot has obvious parallels with ghettoised folk in the real world and other issues of human rights are touched upon.

At it's centre, the hero of the book is a journalist, dedicated to finding out the truth.  In a medium so dominated by heroes who achieved their superpowers through luck, it is refreshing to have a protagonist whose only 'power' is to write passionate analyses of the problems around him.  When it comes down to it, the other stuff is just a bonus.

What's bad about it?
It's not for the faint hearted or those averse to graphic violence, swearing or foulness.  It seems that warren Ellis does not hold an optimistic view of human nature.  There's no feelgood ending and basically, everyone's a bastard.  This may not appeal to everyone.

Issues are not discussed as such, but it is made clear what stance the protagonists take and who has the moral high (or low) ground.  It's a stark view of humanity presented in quite a clear cut manner.

What's the art like?
In a word, lurid.  It's full of, well everything really, there's never really empty space in any panel.  This solidifies the city and the landscape creating a vivid portrait of this future civilisation.

The city if hellish and dark.  It's unbelievably crowded and full of vicious malcontents.  All of this information comes from the art, not the text, yet the panels never seem cluttered.  Take a look:

Other Information
Price: £9.99

This first volume is a nice slim collection that doesn't cost too much and is a good introduction to both the series and Mr Ellis.  If you like what you read here there are several more volumes available.

And if you enjoy this, may I also recommend Tank Girl, Preacher (to be reviewed here at a later date) and Nextwave: Agents of H.A.T.E.  Links will be added when available.

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