Tranmetropolitan- A Review

“Journalism is just a gun. It’s only got one bullet in it, but if you aim right, that’s all you need. Aim it right, and you can blow a kneecap off the world.”

Transmetropolitan created by Warren Ellis and Darick Robertson, features an investigative-Gonzo journalist who goes by the name of Spider Jerusalem in a futuristic city which is a living-pulsating-ejaculation of plastic, gizmos, drugs, sex, violence, oppression, advertisements and politics. Spiders walks through the shit filled alleys of the scum that is the oppressed and he walks through the Broadways and temples of this future civilization which gleams with the sweat which pours out when a politician goes hard on cheap Australian hookers. Spider is as crazy as the city itself, probably even crazier and he spits out red-hot words which fume with cynicism, hatred and bitter humor in an attempt to show the truth to a apathy filled population and wake them up from their soma-vacations.


Spider Jerusalem is tattooed, bald, wears a pair of asymmetric photographic shades. There are more drugs coursing through his veins than blood and he carries a bowel-disruptor gun (well, yeah). His temperament ranges from being deep and profound to being father like caring to being baboon-on crack-during mating-season-crazy. Being born on the streets and having seen the world for what it is, his nerves have long been replaced with rusted barbed wire and his tongue for a whiplash. I dare you, you will be unable to give one solid comeback to any of his rants and bizarre wise-cracks.

Throughout the series Spider (along with his two “filthy assistants”) is shown talk a walk along roads of politics, urban culture, Blood, moral-degradation, police brutality, superficiality of mankind, consumerism and other connecting alleys and curbs where we all sit together huddled up around holographic fires, our pupils playing the role of reflective screens for propaganda and advertisements, and we never blink. Throughout his numerous adventures he topples two presidencies of the country, fights against pseudo-religion, and fights for the rights and conditions of the “new-scum” (one of the largest banks). He shows us that only the deranged, sad and the depraved walk this neo-earth. And if you don’t think you are one of these then you certainly are dead. One would have to be all the above mentioned things as well incredibly angry and high on hard-hitting drugs to be able to even think about trying to bring a change into the modern world. Spider Jerusalem’s larger than life portrayal is in a way assuring us of the fact that, if there is to be a messiah for this age then it will be a crazy, gutsy, grimy, subversive journalist on drugs.

Now this is what you would want to know-

The underlying theme of this work is cyberpunk with enough explosive social commentary to nuke Japan once again (in case, you didn’t already get this). The style is loud, gaudy, colourful and bold. There are moments which will make you hiss through you clenched teeth and enough dramatic phenomena to make you stand up and applaud (I actually did this and folks thought I was crazy). The story telling in the beginning seems to be random and focused on isolated incidents with no immediate connection but the creators manage to tie it all up in sprawling painting, prophetic in nature and which on closer examination seems have been painted by shit-stains. One of the major reasons why I personally love the touch of cyberpunk (in general as well, over generic sci-fi), because the genre focuses on human interactions, society and politics and culture along with futuristic progress. It shows that no matter the technology, human condition will remain miserable and same. It is due to this that Transmetropolitan, connects so much with it readers, because it all seems plausible, a reality which will dawn upon in the immediate future. As you turn each vibrant page after another, it will leave a residue on your fingertips. The comicbook itself is grimy around the edges.

Are you still with me?

Now, the writing style is witty, direct, deep and deliberately ugly. Be it the insanely crazy swearing and rants or the  profound monologues and columns of Spider. The humor feels fresh throughout the series and the tempo of the story doesn’t drop anywhere.

The illustration is simple (and i like it this way) but the character designs are creative and out of the box (rather, I don’t think the creators have even heard of a box). Tremendous attention has given to detailing, there is something funny or interesting in every panel (be it a small poster or graffiti or strange green slime that randomly appeared on the protagonist’s head). The paneling pattern itself is praise-worthy, there are pages where, in order to give you the feel of the world, numerous small spiraling panels portray daily incidents of a polluted city life.

Now listen closely.

Yes it is true that the way Spider is depicted and the ease with which he accomplishes his tasks are unrealistic. You might say that the life of a real journalist is filled with harsh circumstances, cruel-censorship and a lot more bad-luck. You might say that a real journalist will himself be reduced to a dystopian city of broken bones and flesh for maggots to thrive in, before he accomplishes things like these. But the comic book does its job. It inspires people (those who are willing) to believe that it is very important to sit up straight and take a look around and that it is normal if we are disgusted by it, but it doesn’t mean that its irreparable. This work takes us to the rooftop of a very tall building and forces us to see the chaos and fire that rages below on the streets. It shows us what journalism is today and what it is actually capable of.

This series starts with Spider saying that a writer/journalist is powerless to do anything he or she can just write. Later into the first issue, Spider Jerusalem stops a massive riot by displaying his article live on the all screens of the city and inspiring people to stop the brutality.

If you think it is naive and stupid to be inspired by comic book into doing something risky as well as good, then I say to you, it is better than taking words from ancient religious texts and killing each other over it.