Spider Jerusalem makes Hunter Thompson seem like a benign old grandma. Spider, the star of Transmetropolitan by Warren Ellis and Darick Robertson, is a gonzo journalist in a future dystopia that is strikingly familiar. He emerges reluctantly out of retirement at the start of the series and plunges into a campaign against ‘The Beast’, the incumbent president of the USA, a dead ringer for Nixon.
That is just the start of a frenetic journey in which Spider, with a fearless lunacy that is oddly suited to the times, battles all that is twisted in the world around him. Wrapped in a steamroller narrative, Transmet contains potent reflections on power, aging, city life, identity and loneliness that have the power to both move and disturb. While the pace of Ellis’s story makes you want to turn the pages as fast as they will go, the beauty of Robertson’s art, especially some of his cityscapes towards the end of the series, make you want to stop and stare.
Ellis once said that one of his aims in writing Transmet was to portray the “moments of pure, heart stopping beauty [that exist] in the most tragic and broken environments.” He succeeds magnificently.