While not originally on my reading list or bookshelf, Transmetropolitan: Back on the street volume 1 sounded too intriguing to pass up. The only graphic novels that I’ve read are Persepolis and Maus, more memoir than traditional comic book/graphic novel. I wasn’t sure what to expect but Ellis and Robertson, though, do not disappoint with Transmet.
Wow! This graphic novel is “in-your-face” from the start, gripping in its oddity, imagery, and dramatic characters. Spider Jersualum has lived alone in the mountains for five years, hiding from his journalistic past and, well, the world. However, he still owes his editor two books and must return to the city to work. He actively seeks out trouble for journalism’s sake and begins writing a weekly column to make money.
The setting for the story is a cyberpunk, gritty, commercialist future. At first, the style reminded me of a mix of the movies Bladerunner and The fifth element. However, the more I read, it seemed more accurately along the lines of a serious version of Idiocracy. The City is grimy, a mingling of all cultures and peoples, and run by a controlling Civic Center. The base tv package includes 2000 channels, hedinoism and drugs are rampant, and sex is pervasive. People can embed themselves with technology and some even enjoy becoming aliens temporarily. Transients are people that live between being human and alien, caught in the slow morphing process in which they will one day be fully alien. These transients are a main focus of the story that Spider makes his pet project.
Transmet was originally released in 60 issues but the version that I’m reading from the public library is a 10-volume set. The format works well, as it is addictive to read, even if the characters and world are abrasive and extremely rude, and sometimes downright disgusting. I read it in three days, mesmerized for most of it by the detailed and bizarre artwork and story. The next two volumes are already on order from the library. Despite the depravity, the future is a compelling one that’s really not too different from the present. Ellis weaves social commentary into the story, such as transient human rights and chastising the corrupt politician. Cory Doctorow even thinks that Transmet gives insight to the current election, although I’ve yet to see that so far with volume 1.
So far, this volume has intrigued me to continue on with the series. We will see if I make it through the nine remaining.
Recommended?: While certainly not for everyone, and it truly is adult for the explicit language and violence and allusions to sex, there are many people who would enjoy this crazy character, story, and setting. For graphic novel readers, try this one out if it sounds interesting. Also, anyone who enjoys the above movies might want to consider it as well. If any part of my review or your looking into this series turns your off from it, then go ahead and skip this one. There is a lot to read in the world, and while you should push yourself out of your reading comfort zone now and then, this is probably not the one for that.