Warren Ellis (whose recent work includes the excellent The Authority
) is a fine comics writer. Spider Jerusalem, his tortured journalist protagonist, is a wonderful creation. Back on the Street
is the first in the Transmetropolitan
series and essential as an introduction to Spider and his world. Preacher
's Garth Ennis introduces the book, rightly praising "the finest, blackest humour, and the purest hate, and a sense of justice hissed through gritted teeth". If the message is sometimes a little heavily, a little clumsily overbearing, this does not detract too much from a great story. Ellis has produced a fine comic series in Transmetropolitan
. This is a future classic.
The scenario goes something like this. Spider Jerusalem left the City ages ago and grew an awful lot of hair up on a mountain. The City was just too corrupt, too sinful, too unbearable a place for a journalist with a heightened, if awry, sense of what's right, what's wrong. Then his editor calls. Spider still owes him two books. A contract from way back when. And if he doesn't come up with the goods there will be consequences. Trouble is, Spider can only write when he's in the City, hasn't written a thing since he left. He doesn't want to go back but he has to write, has to go back. So he returns to the trouble and the turmoil, back to the mess that feeds him as a writer and gets himself a story. A punk he used to know, Fred Christ, is causing trouble. Fred is the leader of the Transients (humans knowingly infused with alien genes) and he wants them to have their own land and is ready to lead a rebellion to achieve that end. The authorities, obviously, see things differently. And Spider sees through both group's hypocrisies... --Mark Thwaite
Ellis's dystopic narrative, with its full-color tale of a gonzo journalist, shares with mainstream superhero comics a macho ethos that undermines the otherwise cool Watchmen-like script. Spider Jerusalem, a hip reporter of the Hunter Thompson mode, breaks a five-year drug binge on a mountaintop to replenish his resources. The city he returns to resembles the post-apocalyptic Blade Runner and all its funky visual progeny, and Jerusalem soon uncovers a government plot involving a staged rebellion by half-aliens. Two pages at the end (done by a different artist?) suggest how much better this would have looked in a style like Moebius, instead of the conventional DC-house graphics. Still, lots of background gags and some sharp cross-cutting panels make for a compelling read. (Kirkus Reviews)