While I’ve already declared Locke & Key to be my favourite comic book, I must confess that it won the title by only a hair. Though to be honest, I’ve read several comic books that I’d consider to be pretty good, but not many that I absolutely love. Since this is only my second recommendation from this medium, the choice must still come from the top of my list. And while there are many on that list that are tied for third place, Warren Ellis’ Transmetropolitan sits alone on the podium as second place.
Before I continue, I must make another confession. This recommendation might be somewhat vague and short unfortunately, for I haven’t read this series in years now and some of the details may be lost in the hodgepodge that is my mind.
Transmetropolitan is set in a somewhat dystopian world a couple of hundred years down the road. The cities are futuristic cesspools of debauchery where your average citizen seems apathetic toward it all. The typical urban dweller is sedated by drugs or distracted by technology that satisfies their every desire, so they are primarily numb to it all. As you’d expect, the city is packed with a cast of colourful characters; street side scammers, sexual deviants, junkies, trendy people with cybernetic implants or limbs, average criminals, mutants and the deformed, beggars, just plain crazy, and self-proclaimed religious prophets. In additional to the population, as you stroll down the streets you’ll also see heaps of trash piles as you’re being bombarded with advertisements that line nearly every inch of the infrastructure, sometimes even under your feet on the sidewalks.
As fascinating as the future presents itself, the core focus of the story is an eccentric (and somewhat psychotic) journalist named Spider Jerusalem who is forced to come out of his hermit like retirement and begin writing again. Think Hunter S. Thompson set in cyberpunk world, but with much more tattoos. His character is more than entertaining to say the least. He has a diverse vocabulary and is always inventing new swear laden insults for anyone he has to deal with, even those he considers friends. He’s a very jaded and sarcastic individual who thoroughly enjoys drug binges. Jerusalem also sports a small arsenal at times and is always willing to kick someone’s ass to get what he’s looking for. Above all though, he’s an amazing journalist who is not afraid to do anything it takes to get the truth published and bring justice to those who deserve it most.
While there is an overall story arc to all of Transmetropolitan that focuses on Jerusalem versus corrupt politicians, Ellis takes plenty of time to throw some focus on some other points. Some of these topics are existent only due to the nature of the fictional futuristic world the story is set in, though even thosecan be boiled down to philosophy that can be applied to today’s real world. Some of these topics are religion, rallies and protests, cryogenic preservation, poverty, the media, body altering with implants, and many more real world and fictional issues. Jerusalem does this all while giving his unique opinion on the subjects, often with sarcasm and swear words as expected.
I’m sure there are other great points worth mentioning about this series, but as I mentioned it’s been years since I’ve read it. Not only that, but the world Ellis has created is highly detailed and vast I can’t go over it all in one short write up. I highly recommend this comic if you’ve got interest in a dystopian somewhat cyberpunk world, or gonzo journalism, or politics, or the media. Even if you don’t, the eccentric Spider Jerusalem and artwork make for a highly entertaining read.