Tag Archives: graphic novel

Read: Transmetropolitan volume 3 by Warren Ellis and Darick Robertson

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If possible, Transmetropolitan: year of the bastard volume 3 is even more offensive, explicit, and violent than the previous two. The main character Spider Jerusalem is oven emperor again consumed by city life and back to his bad habit of being constantly drugged up to make it through the day and write his columns. Previously led to his demise by reporting on politics, he begrudgingly agrees to cover the current divisive election. Keep in mind, this graphic novel was published in 1999. 

The plot of this volume is Spider starting to cover the election that he’s tried so hard to ignore up until now. Neither choice is good but one side is using hate and bigotry to divide people and feed off of it for popularity while the other candidate is still and fake, always smiling but not much substance. Just as he gets involved and starts covering the candidates, the opposition’s campaign advisor gets shot on air and dies. With such a cliffhanger ending, I’ll need to order the next volume soon from the public library. 

Oddly, the second the third volumes have been in near pristine condition while the first was well used. Seems like people try out that series and then do not continue on, which makes sense considering the content. If these were movies, they wcould hid certainly be rated R for drug use, violence, and sexual content. Despite these aspects, the story itself is compelling because while Spider is clearly flawed, he writes for and cares about educating the common person who he believes is getting screwed by society and those running it. His drug use stems from not being able, or perhaps willing, to deal with his disgust for how the world works and the scum who live in it, in a more healthy way. He doesn’t date, hang out with friends, and so far lacks or isn’t close with his family so there’s no support net; instead he fills that void with drugs to get by. However, with his new assistant, in this volume she shares her concern with her uncle who is Spider’s editor so perhaps in future volumes he will turn this around or at least work on it.

Recommended?: For graphic novel fans, and readers of Transmet as this fills in the political aspects of the world and what makes Spider tick. Also, for anyone interested in Ellis’ take on a divisive political race, as long as the other material isn’t a deal breaker. It feels weird to recommend this series, due to its explicit nature but the story so far is intriguing and the main character is complex. 

Tranmeyropolitan volume 3 cover

Read: Monstress: volume one Awakening by Marjorie Lin and Sana Takeda

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Monstress by writer Marjorie Liu and artist Sana Takeda is a fantasy graphic novel about a world in a tentative peace after a brutal war with weapons and magic. There are five main races, including humans and other creatures with some that are magical.

From the first page, the drawings are stunning. They are in the style of steampunk mixed with fantasy elements that are reminiscent of Miyazaki’s Princess Mononoke. The detail and movement captured add to the atmosphere of the story.

Also, the world is mainly women, which is refreshing for a change. Whether or not there’s a reason for it isn’t addressed in this first volume. Nearly all covenversations are between women and never about men so it passes the Bechdel test with flying colors, even the new one proposed by Slate. Despite this, there is still a fair amount of fighting and deadly battles. Life in this world is difficult and cruel, especially for certain types of creatures who are taken advantage of by those in power.

While there is a lot to like about Monstress, the story itself isn’t very clear. There’s a main character but there are several others and a handful of different locations in which the story takes place. Perhaps the other volumes build upon it further but I wish there was more explanination in in this one. Nothing particular hooked me as a reader plus with new aspects being introduced then receding just as quickly as it turned back to the main character, it felt disjointed and confusing at times. I am not sure if I will read the others.

Recommended?: For graphic novel lovers and fantasy fans who would enjoy a beautifully drawn, creative story about a curious magical land in turmoil and on the verge of another war.

Monstress cover image

Read: March: book one by John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, and Nate Powell

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Continuing the trend of graphic novels, I recently finished reading Congressman John Lewis‘ March: book one. Lewis played a large role in the civil rights movement and marched alongside Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. This book is part of a trilogy and the final one was published earlier this summer.

March: book one takes place on inauguration day on January 20th, 2009, as Lewis ready himself in his office for President Obama’s swearing in. However, it’s only the backdrop of this first book, as most of the action takes places during Lewis’ childhood and the start of the civil rights movement. The story ends in April 1960 and in the present, Lewis just leaves his office to head outside for the ceremony.

Similar to Maus and Persepolis, March uses the form of the graphic novel as a conduit for the serious and often violent history of the civil rights movement. It’s a great medium for showcasing important scenes in a visual form, with concise story and dialogue to explain. This makes for an accessible, inviting read for what could be an otherwise dense and detailed non-fiction book. Perhaps this way it will attract more readers and hopefully younger ones who likely don’t know about the history or don’t know much of it. 

With a trilogy, the story is allowed more time to develop. For this first book, while it spans many years of Lewis’ personal history as well as the beginning of the civil rights, not much happens. This book feels like it’s just getting started as it wraps up. The end feels too abrupt but then again, the subtitle conveys that there will be future books. As a stand alone, it feels incomplete although they seem to have done a good job with it. 

Recommended?: Yes but I have a feeling that all three books will need to be read together. This book covers Lewis youth and the Woolworth lunch counters demonstrations along wth Rosa Parks. It’s really the tip of the iceberg but the story and sketches are so well done. I can’t wait to read the next two!
March graphic novel cover

Transmetropolitan volume 1 by Warren Ellis and Darick Robertson

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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.