Transmetropolitan Vol 3: Year Of The Bastard by Warren Ellis, Darick Robertson and Rodney Ramos (graphic novel review).
‘Transmetropolitan’ is a great example of comics at their most gloriously grim, absurdly awesome and fantastically unfiltered. The book is an off the rails, hyper-real bastardised look at our society in the form of future shock. Following the journalist Spider Jerusalem, a thinly veiled cyberpunk take on Hunter S Thompson, ‘Transmetropolitan’ is comicbook satire at its finest.
In the previous volumes, ‘Back On The Streets’ and ‘Lust For Life’, Spider returned to The City from his self-imposed exile and restarted his career as the City’s most feared outlaw journalist. This time round, Spider has the upcoming US election to cover but, of course, nothing is what it seems and the stress of his coverage of the previous election eight years earlier has Spider panicking.
During the last election, Spider wrote the book that made him famous, an attack on the incumbent president who he nicknamed ‘the Beast’. Playing off of the Nixon/Thompson relationship from Thompson’s ‘Fear And Loathing On The Campaign Trail ’73’, the animosity between Thompson and his adversary, the current president, is a stark and loveable hate/hate relationship brought to life through the distance between left and right wing. This rivalry is tempered when he starts covering the opposition party, leading him into a stand-off with the candidate, nicknamed the Smiler.
Consisting of a brutal pint-sized Nazi that evokes the extreme rights of current American politics (spooky, considering this was written in the late nineties) and another candidate, the Smiler, a pseudo-intellectual fake grin wearing manipulator, the opposition party are a party at odds with the world. Whilst most opposition parties are the antithesis of those in power, in this case, they are pretty much the same. They may even be even more morally bankrupt.
The six issues within follow Spider’s coverage of the running race to be selected as the opposition candidate, whilst keeping all of the nuances that made the first two volumes of this series so bloody good. The brutal society that Ellis and Robertson depict is a full on, over the top, harrowing dystopia, that whilst bordering on ridiculous never ever falls into farce. It’s a work of art.
With Darick Robertson on pencils, you know that there isn’t going to be any reins imposed on the art. It is fantastically brutal. One scene has Spider sitting in a public toilet listening in on the opposition whilst injecting a needle of some sort of horrendous drugs straight into his tear duct. This is Robertson. So you see it, up close and honest. It is cringe inducing, but it is wonderful.
This comic doesn’t pull its punches, in fact, it’s one of the most extreme stories in the medium, but that is what makes it so goddamn brilliant. Every panel is packed with the brilliant details that Robertson and Ellis’ partnership, every page is overflowing with information that helps to build a life like, terrifying but ultimately quite appealing dystopia.
The volume also deals brilliantly with Spider’s character, having him play off of a potential girl-friend, his new assistant and the return of an old friend. It makes the character, this virile, raging, sociopath, seem so endearing.
The third volume of ‘Transmetropolitan’ is just as great as the first two, if not better. It is explosive, honest and completely engrossing. I’ve read a lot of comicbooks but only a few of them make their way into my list of favourite reads. This is not just one of the best comicbooks out there; it’s one of the best dystopian reads you can find. Spider Jerusalem may be a moral black hole, but no matter how dark ‘Transmetropolitan’ gets, it becomes an addiction, there is no other comicbook quite like it. You can’t help but thank your dealers, Ellis and Robertson, for giving you such a high.