It’s Wednesday, the hardest to spell of days, the hump day, its only redeeming value is that in 48 hours we will be blessed with the weekend; unless you’re a comic book reader, because that’s when the new rags get released. My local shopkeeper showed me something new today; it was old, something that I already have, but it made me happy none the less. Transmetropolitan is back in print as trades with revamped cover art, expanded issue counts and a nice price.
Transmetropolitan is a 60 issue series which covers five years of the life of outlaw journalist Spider Jerusalem who lives and loathes in a Blade Runner-esque future that just might come to pass. Spider is a gonzo journalist who shares more than passing similarities to Hunter S Thompson, they both live on a mountain, both love guns, both are political junkies, and both share a voracious appetite for all things chemical. Anti-heroism is the rule of the day when dealing with their archetype, so it can be rather hard to relate to either the real life journalist as it is to relate to his fictional counterpart. But the one thing that you have to remember with both, no matter how much they seem to hate you, deep down they both care, otherwise they wouldn’t be doing what they do.
The series begins five years after Spider’s last work, five years after he retired to the mountain and five years after he spent all of his advance for his last two books, which he has yet to write. This forces Spider to return to The City, a place that is not explicitly named, but can be construed as possibly New York City far in the future. How far? That is never told throughout the series and it has been hinted at that nobody knows for certain what year it is, because the concept really doesn’t carry the same meaning anymore.
Spider’s world is a dystrophic world of consumer science gone mad. Everything is branded, all problems can be solved, save the human condition. It’s very easy to see yourself living in Spider’s world, there is nothing in it that doesn’t seem out of reach in the next few decades. Smoking is rampant, because anyone can just buy a cheap anti-cancer trait from the local pharmacy. Hunger can be solved but isn’t, because of very human failings. You can even graft temporary animal traits onto your genetic code, allowing you to live with the dolphins for a weekend if you so choose.
While the world is fantastic, the overarching theme of the series is that of the human condition. Even with all the technological marvels at our fingertips, we are still just as fallible in the future as we are in the present and have been in the past. Spider, just like many of his predecessors tries to change it. The first and most glaring example of this is in the first trade, re-released today.
Returning back to The City, Spider goes looking for a story and finds it in a big way. A section of The City, named Angels 8, is the home of transhumans who are slowly altering their DNA to that of a group of aliens so that one day they may join them and have taken Angels 8 as their own. The City fathers take offense to this and send in the police to take it back. This results in a media black out and no reporters on the scene, save Spider, who came to interview their leader, an old friend of his. Seeing the injustice of the unarmed transients against the police in full riot gear, Spider does the only thing he can, he writes. Being the only person on the scene, his newspaper runs the story as he writes it. This is the first time we see the humanity of Spider, and as well as he hides it, it isn’t the last.
This is just a taste of what Transmetropolitan has to offer. It’s a frighteningly well thought out world that offers poignant and tragic characters studies in later issues, such as when Spider takes up the cause of a woman who was brought out of cryogenic storage from our time and his effort to bring her out of her state of future shock back to a functioning person. There is also elements of hilarious toilet humor, the best being Spider’s weapon of the choice, the Bowel Disruptor Gun (with three settings: loose, watery and prolapsed). It may be set in the future, but it is just as relevant as when it was first released over fifteen years ago.
As for the art, this is Darick Robertson doing what Darick Robertson does. As a matter of fact, this is where he honed his current style which can still be found monthly in Dynamite Entertainment’s The Boys.
The new trade is a mixed blessing. It’s cheap, six issues for $14.99, but the paper seems to be inferior to the original release back in the late nineties. There is no supplemental material that I came across and the only real difference between the original trade release and the re-release is two extra issues and a reworked cover. If you already have the original releases of the trade paperbacks, there isn’t much here for you, the originals look better to begin with compared to the added red and white covers of the new versions. For those who haven’t read the series, it’s worth the coin, and for those of us who have, join me in prayer to DC editorial for an Absolute Edition.
Volume 1: released March 11, 2009 144 pages, $14.99
Volume 2: release date May 20, 2009 144 pages, $14.99
Highly recommended for anyone who hasn’t read it, or didn’t get the trades the first time around
Not recommended for anyone who already has the trades
[tags]Comics, Literature, Transmetropolitan, Vertigo, Warren Ellis, Darick Robertson[/tags]