There is an election looming and Spider Jerusalem must put his social engineering skills to work on the outcome.
This is a single story with a coherent narrative, strong characterisation, and a protagonist you root for. What has gone wrong? This isn’t the literary anarchy we have come to expect from Ellis. Sure there are off the wall sci-fi ideas and obscure literary references but our misanthrope leading man transforms into Robin Hood. Hmmmmm.
The art is top notch stuff and features some of the most expressive human illustration ever. Spider emotes through his whole body and you can feel his pain in his posture, his gate and even his sweat.
Transmet goes mainstream turning down the anarchy to come up with a story that wouldn’t look out of place in an Ex Machina volume. Apart from the pills, expletives, head-butting, and powdered children.
There is also a short Christmas story and brief cover gallery. Thumbs Up!
Tomorrow: Transmetropolitan: The New Scum – Warren Ellis
This could be Ellis’ easiest gig. He simply indulges in his tipple of choice and rants incoherently about anything, and then it gets turned into a comic. Genius! Or it could be Gonzo life writing like Hunter S. Thompson or a stream-of-consciousness epic like James Joyce’s Ulysses. Add to that a grimy future composed of all the ideas too weird to fit any mainstream title and Voila. You the reader must decide if the Emperor of comics is clothed or au naturel.
There are several single issue stories that do look like soapbox of the week but are nevertheless entertainingly told. Then follows a three-part story with plenty of action and drama. There some great ideas, world building and character development. You are also beginning to warm to our favourite anti-hero.
The art is great and despite being clear as a bell has lot of anarchic energy. There is clever composition, eye catching angles and several hidden jokes to be found in the background. Action is handled very well and you get a great sense of depth and motion. No matter how bizarre the future becomes it is all depicted in a realistic way.
You can easily see why this gained a cult following and look forward to more adventures with a homicidally cantankerous protagonist. Thumbs Up!
Tomorrow: Transmetropolitan: Year of the Bastard – Warren Ellis
A Gonzo Journalist in a cyberpunk setting is forced out of retirement and finds he can still make a difference.
This is a very dense read. You can’t just sit back and be entertained here. There is a lot of prose, a lot of subtext and lashings of futuristic Orwellian technobabble. Imagine Hunter S Thompson meets Mega City One and you will have some idea of the strangeness that is weeping from Ellis’ pustulent mind. Anyone who can get Garth Ennis to write their introduction is definitely going to be off the wall.
The art is equally garish and anarchistic. Darick Robertson does a fantastic job of rendering a decadent technopolis completely out of control. There are lots of creative angles and great expressions at work too. The colouring is totally over the top yet there is an expert depiction of light and shade that gives it a sophisticated look.
This is only three issues long yet feels so much longer because of the almost Clockwork Orange dialogue. Anything longer might have proved too tangled for many readers to persevere with so you get a good idea what to expect for the next nine volumes. Thumbs Up!
Tomorrow: Transmetropolitan: Lust for Life – Warren Ellis
There is trouble in small town America when religious do-gooders try and get a young boy’s favourite fantasy story banned from his local library.
This is a charming portrait of childhood and growing up. Friendship, high school, and self-discovery are all expertly portrayed and, regardless of your age, you can empathise with the young protagonist here. The book-banning theme and its culmination in a town meeting to decide their fate is an excellent driving force that keeps the meandering pace moving forward.
There are some more subtle themes such as censorship, religion, government, and others being explored below the surface if you want to look and some of the references are very clever indeed. The book also dips into the fantasy world in question with excerpts from this imaginary series. These are a bit hit and miss but do generate the occasional laugh.
The art is simple black pen which works very well. The hand lettering isn’t ideal but is certainly readable. The other world forays are shaded grey or black making an obvious and effective contrast.
This book wont rock your world and the pace can be a little winding but it is enjoyable none the less. Thumbs Up
Tomorrow: Transmetropolitan: Back on the Street – Warren Ellis
This volume dovetails neatly and often very subtly into the American Vampire universe so make sure you re-read the previous books. There are three stories here, the first goes way back into Book and Skinner’s history and the other two move the story into the 1950’s.
Snyder is a master of storytelling, slowly planting seeds and drip feeding you clues until you work out what is going on in a satisfying epiphany. Rather than passively reading along you are encouraged to put together the pieces and work out the story for yourself.
Regular artist Albuquerque only draws one of the stories but the other artists are able to honour his style enough that you soon lose yourself in the world. All of them know better than to compete with the narrative and bide their time until a full page or double page spread gives them a chance to shine.
The world of American Vampire has grown beyond Skinner Sweet and most of the characters we have met previously have some impact on the story here. There are no gratuitous cameos or clumsy crossovers. Everything happens for a reason, and usually one you hadn’t suspected, but kick yourself for not seeing.
Brilliant storytelling deserving of a Thumbs Up!
Tomorrow: Americus – MK Reed
A criminal gets a chance to see a better, different life for himself. Will he take it? This is a charming story, well told, that you can just see making a great film. It is a simple tale but opening with the ending spices things up and fills you full of questions.
The art is the most basic black pen with a bit of brush inking to fill in the backgrounds. There is a deceptive amount of detail in what you assume to be a very rapid technique. The faces are also full of character and rather quirky.
Here is a great example of what you can do with a strong idea and black and white sketches. It has a universal appeal and is brave enough not to give you an ending you might want or expect. It is all too brief sadly, but it is the length it needs to be and isn’t padded or bloated – a brave decision.
For its independent spirit this gets a Double Thumbs Up.
Tomorrow: American Vampire: volume 4 – Scott Snyder
The idea of Mark Millar doing a comic about Jesus might have every priest running for the hills but this really isn’t what you would expect. Here is a sincere and open look at the teachings of Christianity and how they relate to our world of today. It is also a quiet meditation on childhood and nostalgia that really rewards the indulgent reader.
The art is superb with a plain and simple charm perfect for its child protagonist. All the characters are distinct and there is real life in this deliberately two-dimensional style. The colouring is also wonderfully appropriate with a light and gentle touch.
There is an insightful interview with the author and artist, two ‘afterwords’ by members of the cloth and script and art pages with brief commentary. This is a superb read all the way through but the ending is just off the scale brilliant. A classic Double Thumbs Up!
Tomorrow: The Tourist – Brian Wood
This is the last volume in this wonderful series. It does end things quite definitively but not necessarily in a way you will like. There is plenty of action and drama and lots of the great shocks and twists you have come to expect. It is very “Hollywood Blockbuster” with plenty of rapid cutting back and forth and a huge fight at the end.
Some of your questions are answered but others aren’t and there seem to be a few poor plot decisions made. There is a huge point left unresolved; seemingly for a sequel that never came. You get the feeling this was cancelled in a hurry but they were good enough to leave an issue or two in which to wrap things up.
The art suffers noticeably too with plain white borders and straight edges for the whole book. Gone are the charm and chaos and independent spirit of the previous books. There are some nice double page spreads but the visual heart of the book has died. This feels more like a tentative first issue than an experienced conclusion. The quotes and facts are still there, albeit to a lesser degree, but now appear as plain text minus the handy little boxes.
An exciting disappointment. A real shame this series never continued. For the dramatic twists this grasps a Thumbs Up!
Tomorrow: American Jesus – Mark Millar
This volume doesn’t try to match the impossibly high emotional standards of the previous one. It goes for weird instead. You know things will be different when the usual period newspapers have been replaced by dramatic art.
There are five stories, and shockingly, three are drawn by different artists. It is unusual to see our familiar world rendered in such a diverse way. This change is appropriate, particularly for the more fantastical feel of one concerning fairies. It all feels positive.
There are also different time periods at work too and you have to mentally store some things for later. The last story is very dramatic and you get the sense things are building to an unpleasant climax. It does get a bit hectic as new ideas are introduced and details you might have forgotten resurface.
But you will definitely have to get the next volume after reading this. A compulsive Thumbs Up!
Tomorrow: Proof: Endangered – Alexander Grecian
This is an amazing story. Not just for the Proof continuity but in terms of storytelling in general. It has a villain who is monstrous but not cartoonish, and non-humans who are paragons of humanity. There is a love story in several different guises and you know things will never be the same once you reach the end.
Whilst not quite the hallowed Origin Story we do spend most of our time in Gulliver’s past and learn a lot about him. If you are smart enough you will also spot a glimpse of his future too. It is neatly bookended in the present day and follows seamlessly from the threads started in the last book.
The art is wonderfully impressionistic eschewing realism and convention. Out of place patterns and colours forewarn you of dangers to come and things hidden below the surface. After three books of avoiding the colour red it is now everywhere complimenting the story’s murderous themes. The art doesn’t show you what you see but what you feel using bold visual techniques. This won’t be to everyone’s taste, and it certainly is different, but if you get it you will love it.
This is the most human book as it deals with themes we can all experience and understand, even if those feeling them aren’t like it. Its monster-of-the-week is the attitude of the period. It has a lot to say on this matter and it speaks most eloquently.
A sincere Double Thumbs Up!
Tomorrow: Proof: Blue Fairies – Alexander Grecian