Transmetropolitan (or TRANSMET as it is abbreviated) was conceived as a limited run series of 60 issues telling the story of 5 years in the life of journalist Spider Jerusalem
when he is forced to return to the City (never named) which he hates (but is the only place he can work). He became famous for a Hunter S. Thompson
style political journalism about the incumbent President
during a previous political campaign.
Whilst Warren Ellis provides the edge and barb of the stories and ideas, it is Darick Robertson who gives both the City and Spider their distinctive look and style. From the bizarrely styled live shades and the three-eyed gekko eating cat to the graphitti and characters in the backgrounds on the streets. The covers are also amazing with some of the great and good of the comics world providing art in three-issue sets including Moebius, Geoff Darrow, Dave Gibbons, and Frank Quitely.
The story is written in 3 (and occasionally 6) issue arcs with major breaks at each year end. These are enjoyable and satisfying on their own but are building up into a single epic tale of politics, betrayal, and two-fisted journalism. Mister Ellis is on record as stating that he is writing TRANSMET with an eye to it being read in collections rather than particularly for the individual comics (not a lot of recap etc.).
There are 10 volumes collecting the entire 60 issue run of the comic. Apart from the first couple they are 6 issues each. The collections (in order) are:
- Back on the Street - 3 issue introductory story to the characters and feel of the series. Spider is forced to return (to fulfill a book contract) and becomes involved in a riot.
- Lust For Life - 9 issues of stories showing the diversity (and 'anarchy') of the City whilst introducing a lot of the background that will become important later (read it - there will be a test!).
- Year of the Bastard - The Country is gearing up for the election and the candidates are coming to the City. Spider is in his element pursuing his old adversary the President (or "The Beast" as Spider christened him and even his children call him). But is the challenger "The Smiler" any better (this character's similarity to Tony Blair is not accidental).
- The New Scum - It's Election time and Spider continues to investigate (and harrass) the two candidates. Are either of the candidates worth supporting?
- Lonely City - The Election is over and Spider is upset about the outcome (not that any result would have pleased him). New technology and old prejudices lead to problems for the authorities and a column for Spider. But will he survive to see it published? (note: the introduction to this volume is written by Patrick Stewart of ST:NG).
- Gouge Away - Digging deeper Spider finds things that some important people want buried, and they will stop at nothing to keep them hidden.
- Spider's Thrash - Spider is on the run after his revelations at the end of the last volume. But he is still digging and has found a new publisher for his columns.
- Dirge - The city press is under seige, with no police to protect them. Then the mother of all storms hits wreaking severe damage. In its aftermath comes a more personal disaster for Spider.
- The Cure - With all his evidence destroyed in the storm and a unavoidable deadline, Spider has to face his demons whilst the threat of martial law hangs over the City. With a little luck and some help from his 'friends' he might still make it.
- One More Time - As the troops invade the city Spider pulls out all the stops to bring the truth to the people. But even if he survives his confrontation with the President can he face his own mortality?
The later summaries are written from the original issues not from the volumes.
There is a lot of interesting background and throwaway details that make this a very deeply textured and enjoyable book. Particularly there are all sorts of things that seem irrelevant until 20-odd issues later. There are also all kinds of underplayed jokes like the references to The Night of the Phone in Prague ("Spider is bored in a room with a telephone and people will die").
There have also been two collections of Spider's Columns called "I Hate It Here" and "Filth of the City". They are short prose pieces over single and double page illustrations by a veritable Who's Who of current comic artists. It is not clear whether these will ever be collected.
Of interest is the fact that this was originally one of the last comics published under DCs science fiction imprint Helix, but it switched to their general Vertigo line when Helix folded after TRANSMET's first year.
Warren Ellis has noted that at least thematically this is a sequel to his Lazarus Churchyard and City of Silence comics.
A large number of the story and volume titles are drawn from songs by groups like the Pixies.
One warning, anyone with a low tolerance for swearing may not enjoy TRANSMET. I lent it to my Brother who showed it to our Father who's response was "I don't know if you should be reading this - in fact I'm not sure I should be reading it.". For the irony
impaired I'm 40 my Brother is 38 and my Father has a good sense of humour (but basically never swears - except when he hits his thumb with a hammer).
Apologies to dokool for not updating this often enough.