illustration (c) Josť Villarrubia 2000 digital
illustration (c) Josť Villarrubia 2000
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Past Glories

Art by Chip Zdarsky. Copyright 2002.

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From something old comes something new

Writer: Warren Ellis
Artists: Darick Robertson, Keith Aiken, Jerome K. Moore, Ray Kryssing, Dick Giordano
Colorist: Nathan Eyring
Letterer: Clem Robins
Trade Paperback
Published by DC Comics/Vertigo, 1997

Reviewed by Paul Hanna

With the new century comes, in theory, a new movement in art and literature. The postmodern movement brought everything in the past under scrutiny. What was discovered, among other things, is that depravity is everythere. No one can escape it. Postmodernism shocked us, twisted our perception of life by exposing its horrible flaws, and ultimately desensitized us to itself. Sex? So what. Corruption? Oh, not again. Death? Happens all the time. These became such a common occurrence in literary culture that they were almost an aside to the events within a given contemporary story. These ideas are details now -- even worse, theyíre icons. And now that almost everything on this planet ceases to amaze in such a gut-wrenching way, what is left? Apathy, unfortunately.
"The next Big Thing."

But, there is also the Truth. The truth that exists amidst the decadence has unfortunately fallen to the wayside as well.

Warren Ellis and Darick Robertsonís TRANSMETROPOLITAN: BACK ON THE STREET is the first step towards something big. The next Big Thing. The storyís beginning sees Spider Jerusalem, outlaw journalist, forced away from his home atop a mountain and down into the City, a morally degenerate yet physically thriving metropolis. An obligation to fulfill the remainder of a book contract compels Spider to re-embrace his job as a journalist. So, Spider becomes an observer, trying to understand the madness within the City.

The story revolves around the Transients, an artificially created minority. The Transients have physically altered their physical appearance for no apparent reason. Their seedy leader, Fred Christ, maintains that they are discriminated against racially as a result. Of course, what ultimately ensues gives the reader that impression, but Spider observes that there is more to the story than whatís there. Itís about reading between the lines -- or the panels. And Spider is the voice that speaks between the panels. Spider reads for us, in essence, because thatís what he does.
"TRANSMETROPOLITAN assaults the reader visually, challenging the peripheral vision."

Will Spider disentangle the apathy that seems to be the City? Maybe. But if so, then what? Thatís the ultimate question, and 'Back On the Street' certainly poses it, leaving the rest of the series to give an answer.

Darick Robertson brings the City a vibrant periphery; his illustrations indicate a keen and almost obsessed eye for detail. The Monkey Burger joints, the crazed media advertisements, the downright peculiar City-dwellers -- TRANSMETROPOLITAN assaults the reader visually, challenging the peripheral vision, drawing the eye this way and that across each panel. It is truly unlike the bulk of American comics, which often neglect backgorunds in an attempt to accentuate character action. But in TRANSMET, the City is a character all unto itself, and its presence can be seen on each page.

Enter the beginning of something new. TRANSMETROPOLITAN aims for the Truth, perhaps the only thing left to move us.

Strongly Recommended.

Paul Hanna is Reviews Editor of PopImage.

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