Published by: DC Comics
Written by: Warren Ellis
Artist: Darick Robertson
Plot: Perpetually enraged gonzo journalist Spider Jerusalem uses his media fame to fight corruption in the government and bring down not just one, but two power-abusing Presidents.
Review: Like Neil Gaiman's Sandman, Garth Ennis's Preacher, or Alan Moore's Watchmen, Transmetropolitan is Warren Ellis's magnum opus, the work against which all of his subsequent material will be judged. I'm sure that writing something of this caliber is a mixed blessing--while it's no doubt extremely satisfying to have created such an awesome work, it's also got to be frustrating for a writer to hear fans say about their later work "Eh, it's not as good as X". And that's not to say that these guys haven't gone on to create some wonderful things--it's just that some stuff is damned near impossible to top.
Transmetropolitan is a series written for cynical, snarky bastards, and its main character Spider Jerusalem (based not so subtly on Hunter S. Thompson) is the snarkiest, most cynical of them all. Set at an undefined time somewhere in the future, Transmetropolitan takes place in an also-undetermined City (most analogous to New York), and it is upon this backdrop that Warren Ellis pins his scathing socio-political commentary. And if you think politics are boring, you've never seen them dealt with like this.
Spider's quest for justice is anything but dull, as he employs weapons like his Bowel Disrupter and the "Chair Leg of Truth" to get to the heart of his story. He also frequently enlists the aid of his two female sidekicks, or "filthy assistants" as he likes to call them. You'll have a lot of fun watching this team-of-three setting up two presidents, the Beast and the Smiler (as Spider has nicknamed his arch-nemeses) for a long, hard fall. Both of these presidential characters clearly take a lot of inspiration from Richard Nixon, but it's also hard not to see echoes of our current US administration in here (which is interesting, because this book ended in 2002).
But Transmetropolitan doesn't limit its scrutiny to politics, dealing with many other interesting themes and issues, including religion, racism, sexuality, drugs, class warfare, the media, the effects of advertising, the destructive nature of fame, and countless others. It's a testament to the popularity of the comic that Spider Jerusalem is one of the most iconic and recognizable non-superhero comic book characters of all time. How cool is he? In a foreword to one of the trade paperback collections, Patrick Stewart discussed how much he loved the book and would love to play the character some day (unfortunately he's a bit too old for it). You can't beat an endorsement by Patrick Stewart.
When the President known as "the Smiler" uses his influence to get Spider fired from his job at The Word, the largest paper in "The City", our heroic journalist is hardly deterred from his quest, and strikes out on a personal independent crusade. Spider's just the kind of guy you wish we had in our sad, spineless real-life media, the kind of guy who has the visibility, resources, and most importantly, the nerve to take a bold stand against something he knows is wrong. In Spider's world, the truth really does transcend all else.
(Scored on a 0.5 - 5 pickles rating: 0.5 being the worst and 5 being the best)
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