Writer: Warren Ellis
Penciller: Darick Robertson
Inkers: Kim DeMulder, Rodney Ramos
Colourist: Nathan Eyring
Lettering: Clem Robins
Editor: Stuart Moore
208 Page Trade Paperback, Collecting Issues 4-12
Published by DC/Vertigo 1999
US $14.95 ISBN: 1563894815
Reviewed by Christopher Butcher
I think the thing that we all have to remember about Spider Jerusalem is that he isn't real.
When you're reading TRANSMETROPOLITAN, it's easy to forget that the acerbic journalist who acts as our protagonist isn't someone that's living and breathing and doing drugs and pissing in Christening fonts somewhere out in the ether. Warren Ellis' writing and Darick Robertson's art bring Spider to life, in a vivid, manic way. The thing being, Spider could be real because he's roughly ten times larger than life. Everything he does is massive, the ingestion of drugs, the assault, the truth. Spider Jerusalem lives a universal truth that's larger than real life could handle, and much of TRANSMETROPOLITAN's success comes from that. LUST FOR LIFE succeeds because of that.
LUST FOR LIFE is the second Transmetropolitan trade paperback, collecting issues 4 through 12 of the series. It takes the unwelcome task of introducing us more completely to Spider Jerusalem's City after the visceral, punch-to-the-guts start of the first three issues and succeeds admirably. Comprised of six single issue stories and a three issue arc, the reader is introduced to Spider's surroundings through Spider himself, as he re-acclimates himself with the (still) unnamed City after an extended absence. We learn of the world through Spider's examination of journalism, television, religion, sex, ancient cultures, and we get to experience the city through our own eyes, and go insane from the experience.
LUST starts off with Spider being assigned an assistant, one Channon Yarrow. She's an aspiring journalist, an ex-stripper, an ex-bodyguard, and a perfect foil to Spider's insanity. She is someone who's comfortable in her society, and her acceptance of her surroundings plays off of Spider's missives against them rather nicely. In the first story she both educates and is educated by Spider, in the third story she's a witness to his cruelty and compassion. Channon is a brilliant character that is flawed enough to be real and real enough to be admired. I think that Channon's character, particularly in these first stories is a large part of why Transmet has as large a female readership as it does.
I haven't mentioned Darick Robertson's art yet because there are very few times in the course of the story that you actually notice it. Robertson, his inkers Kim DeMulder and Rodney Ramos, and colorist Nathan Eyring have created a fully realized world. You never question the frightening technology, the freaks and oddities, the architecture or the citizens. You rarely notice the obsessive detail that goes into making Spider's world so rich and vibrant, and that, if anything is a good thing. One would think that if you did notice it, it would be akin to seeing an obviously placed special-effect in a movie, or noticing that the clouds in the background of that shot were painted on a canvas rather than real. Add to that the expert use of body language and facial expression - from Spider's cartoonish overtures to the subtle highs and lows that Channon experiences - and you've got a production that's truly seamless.
One of the most difficult things about reviewing LUST, is that it contains so many stories, and it contains what many people consider to be their favorite stories. There are, perhaps, more memorable lines, more memorable scenes, and more characterization of Spider in these 9 issues than in the rest of the series to date. And that's saying a lot. There's no way I could sum up in this review all of the glimpses of Spider, all the despicable behavior, the caring and trust and everything in between, that we are treated to in LUST.
I will make on special exception, and talk about a story entitled "Another Cold Morning". I'll tell you right now, this story, particularly if you are a fan of Science Fiction, is good enough to warrant purchasing the entire collection on it's own merits. It deals with the plight of a woman from our times who undergoes cryonic suspension, and is re-awoken into the time of Spider Jerusalem. It is a heartfelt tale, narrated entirely by Spider, and it works on a number of levels. It describes senior citizens being ignored by a society that it has a lot to offer, it condemns the fascination with the "new" at the expense of learning from our mistakes, it advocates for the basic tenets of expressing caring and decency towards our fellow man. And it shows that underneath it all, Spider can really care about people, which ends up being his greatest strength and his greatest weakness.
If you're not reading Transmetropolitan, you should. If you disagree, you're wrong. It's as simple as that. Transmet is a rich, engrossing story with nary a superhero to be found, and will be appreciated by those who are smart and have excellent taste. While the violence, subject matter, and language can sometimes be off-putting, it's an important work and sometimes being a little put-off by a book is a good thing. The kind of universal truths that Spider Jerusalem espouses aren't always pretty.
Christopher Butcher is the Editor in Chief at PopImage.
www.warrenellis.com - Warren Ellis' homepage, filled with biographical, bibliographical, and other interesting inormation.
www.delphi.com/ellis - The Warren Ellis Forum, a place for fans, readers, and critics of Warren's work to discuss current events..
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