Warren Ellis‘s Transmetropolitan series continues to ramp up in its second volume. While the first volume was focused on a single issue (the transients’ secession from The City) this volume is mostly episodic dives into different areas of The City’s culture. This serves to flesh out the series’ setting before the bigger story lines in subsequent volumes while still being invective and funny as hell.
“You learn about a culture from its television.”
Warren Ellis is a master of acerbic wit. He bring his full powers of satire and sarcasm to bear in the character Spider Jerusalem. Nothing is sacred as Spider skewers television, religion, journalism, and virtually every other aspect of modern culture and society. And while Spider may spew hate from his mouth and keyboard, it’s all so ridiculous and insightful the reader has to laugh and nod. When Spider upturns the tables at a religious convention while wearing Air Jesus sneakers the incisive absurdity is delightful.
And Darick Robertson’s artwork is perfect. His illustrations are detailed yet clean. He draws in just the right gonzo style to match Ellis’ story and setting. The City wouldn’t be The City without his visuals of overcrowded sidewalks bombarded with ads, sex, and violence. And much like Star Wars is lauded for presenting a future that feels “lived in”, Robertson’s future has enough grime to counteract every other sleekly clean future.
“That’s what I hate most about this fucking city — lies are news and truth is obsolete.”
While Transmet is set in some undetermined future, the issues it tackles are very much contemporary. In a 24 hour news cycle world where virtual mobs flock to hashtags on social media it’s a wonder any rational thought can crack the public consciousness. Spider spends an entire day watching television “to bring back shining insights about our lives” and winds up falling into TV’s trap. He attends a religious convention when “one new religion is invested every hour”, with people worshiping everything from reruns of “The Nanny” to Kurt Cobain to aliens, and winds up getting into a fight with an ice pick wielding zealot.
“Her story’s over because you wouldn’t have it any other way.”
The story about a cryogenically frozen lady being revived is harrowing. The adage “history is written by the victors” can be cliche until you are “foisted upon a future already busy enough with its own problems by a past that couldn’t have cared less.” This story should strike a chord with anyone who shed a tear at Brooks’ fate in The Shawshank Redemption. The story directly after also deals with the past. Reservations are created to resurrect past cultures. Escapees from these reservations wind up shell shocked just like the cryogencially revived.
The final story, the three part “Freeze Me With Your Kiss”, was actually underwhelming to me compared to the first six issues. Instead of a journalistic bent, this story is mostly a mystery as Spider is caught up in a plan set in motion by his cryogenically frozen ex-wife. There’s no real cultural insights in this story, although Spider still has some good lines. Some of the plot threads felt like total filler, such as a police dog that seizures every time he hears Jerusalem’s name or the headless person claiming to be Spider’s child. This story did introduce the War of Verbals between England and France, which I would have loved to learned more about to flesh out some of the history between our time and the time of Transmet.
Spider’s remark “I kind of like it in here” while sitting in a public toilet juxtaposes nicely with his column’s title “I Hate It Here.”
All throughout this volume are little bits about the upcoming presidential election, the true heart of the series. It shows how well planned the series is to be able to drop so many subtle clues this early. And with the current real life presidential candidacies of Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, life has begun to imitate art which was mocking life.