Welcome to the first official installment of The New Guy, my monthly rant on various classic graphic novels from the perspective of a comic newbie. This inaugural jaunt will be focusing on Warren Ellis’ treatise on…. well, everything: Transmetropolitan.
Ellis brings us the story of Spider Jerusalem, a journalist in self-imposed exile, who is forced back into the city to face the grim dystopian realities there contained. It reads like Hunter S. Thompson trapped in a Philip K. Dick nightmare. There are storyline arcs, but narrative is not really the focus of this work. Most page space is taken by Jerusalem’s insane ranting. The result is a thinly veiled excuse for Ellis to express his views through a medium. I mean, obviously all writers express themselves, their values and morals, through their characters, but Spider Jerusalem is literally a soapbox.
This is why we identify with Spider, the personification of vitriolic humour. We want to be him; most of us just don’t have the balls to do so. Isn’t that the sort of baseline escapism that the graphic novel industry thrives on? Men in masks, bounding across rooftops, protecting helpless citizens. We read these stories to imagine a paradigm of virtue. In this case, our skewed sense of what being virtuous entails gives us a man with zero tolerance, no boundaries and balls large enough to tell it how it is.
Transmetropolitan is a bit of a heavy read. I felt exhausted, and to be honest, I had to read the first trade in two separate sittings just purely due to the rabid onslaught that is Spider Jerusalem’s loathing. However, if that sounds like a chore, I still recommend picking it up and at least trying it out. Once I had overcome the initial slap in the face, it became one of the most entertaining books I have read to date. I can certainly see how it earned its reputation as a modern classic.