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Art by Chip Zdarsky. Copyright 2002.

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TRANSMETROPOLITAN: I HATE IT HERE
Outlaw journalist Spider Jerusalem spreads The Word.

Writer: Warren Ellis
Artist: Various
Prestige format One Shot
Published by DC Vertigo, 2000
$5.95

Reviewed by Scott J. Grunewald

Sometimes, Warren Ellis frightens me. And it's generally not when he tries to, either. Ellis has the rare and odd ability to not only suck a reader into his stories, but to actually get under your skin and literally force you to come back to the work time and again. His comics haunt you. TRANSMETROPOLITAN is the story of outlaw journalist Spider Jerusalem - a mad, angry, drug addled bastard with a razor sharp tongue and desperate and overwhelming compulsion to tell the truth. Spider lives and works in The City, a futuristic and sprawling metropolis, featuring kiosks that sell cloned human meat, monkey burgers, and chewing gum laced with hallucinogens. The police are brutal and mindless enforcers for a government tired of working for us. The rich sit comfortably above the ever-increasing masses of poor people shoved into dark corners, out of their "betters'" line of sight. An apathetic middle class doesn't bother voting, because they're too busy playing video games, watching TV, or having their rectums pierced.
"TRANSMET is our world, reflected in a warped and dirty mirror."

If that sounds a little too much like the cities that we're living in today, then you're getting the point of the series. TRANSMET is our world, reflected in a warped and dirty mirror.

In the regular series, Spider is our guide through his world. I've always imagined that the world we're seeing is just the real world filtered through his off-kilter perspective. Darick Robertson, who gives us a raw, cluttered, and illogical maze of insanity, illustrates his world. What better way to let us inside the minds and worlds of the other city residents than by showing us this mad world through their eyes? TRANSMETROPOLITAN: I HATE IT HERE does exactly that. Ellis gathered 34 of the top artists working on comics today to help him out.

"[Spider's] columns also serve as an interesting companion piece to the series."
TRANSMETROPOLITAN: I HATE IT HERE is a collection of snippets from Spider's weekly newspaper column and each piece is illustrated by a new and talented artist. The columns themselves are wild and unpredictable, just like their writer (Spider, not Ellis, although a case could be made for the latter). But aside from being funny, shocking, and insightful, his columns also serve as an interesting companion piece to the series. It takes us back to his first days back in the city after being forced out of his self-inflicted exile, onto his mad trouble with The Smiler, and the shocking and painful death of his friend Vita Severn. Seeing as how the timing of this special comes just as TRANSMET reaches it's halfway point, I find myself hoping that we get another collection like this after the series concludes.

But as good as the columns of Spider are the real reason to get this book is the accompanying artwork. Just as I imagine Robertson's manic artwork to be like looking through the eyes of Spider, one can almost imagine that the various pieces of art in the I HATE IT HERE special are like looking through the eyes of a random city dwellers reading one of Spiders columns.

Imagine for a second that you love Spider, and you look at him as a literary hero. When you read about him running around naked high on hallucinogens, thinking he's a Norse lawyer, you're obviously going to idealize the image in your mind. Imagine you're a conservative housewife reading about Spider's horrible use of drugs, of course you're going to picture him wild eyed, and dirty with odd drug injecting paraphernalia surrounding him. Imagine you're at the opposite side of the political spectrum as Spider, hearing him talk about tossing The Beast out of office and parade his body on the streets is going to make you imagine scenes from the apocalypse.

TRANSMETROPOLITAN: I HATE IT HERE is a wonderful set piece to the world of Spider Jerusalem, and is must reading for fans of the series. Knowing what's going in the minds of Spider's readers is just as vital as knowing what's going on in the mind of Spider himeself. I HATE IT HERE shows us a side of Spider's world that we would never be able to see in the regular series.

Recommended (with reservations: for readers of the regular TRANSMET series).

 


Scott J. Grunewald is Publisher of PopImage.


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