Book: “Transmetropolitan (Vol.3): Year of the Bastard” by Warren Ellis, Darick Robertson (Ill.), and Rodney Ramos (Ill.)
Publishing Info: Vertigo, September 1999
Where Did I Get This Book: I own it.
Book Description: Investigative reporter Spider Jerusalem attacks the injustices of the 23rd Century surroundings while working for the newspaper The Word in this critically-acclaimed graphic novel series written by comics superstar Warren Ellis, the co-creator of PLANETARY and THE AUTHORITY.
In this third volume, Spider Jerusalem begins to crumble under the pressure of sudden and unwanted fame. Having had enough of the warped 23rd century Babylon that he lives in, Spider escapes into a world of bitterness and pills. As he stumbles through this haze of depression and drugs, he must find a way to cover the biggest story of the year, the presidential election. Armed with only his demented mind and dark sense of humor, Spider embarks on an adventure of political cynicism, horrific sex, and unwelcome celebrity which culminates in a shocking and ruinous ending.
Review: When we left of in “Transmetropolitan”, things got a bit existential and a bit off track of the main plot. That isn’t to say that I didn’t appreciate the stories that we got in “Transmetropolitan: Lust for Life”. I actually really did enjoy them for what they were and what purpose they served. I liked learning more about the world that this series takes place in, and the limits and limitlessness that society lives with. But I’ll be honest, I was stoked to see that we were getting back into the down and dirty nitty gritty with “Transmetropolitan: Year of the Bastard”. Spider’s assistant Channon has left him in the lurch, and he’s turned to drugs and angst. But then he is approached by Vita Severn, the campaign manager of the candidate who is going to rival The Beast. This man is known as The Smiler, as he perpetually smiles and tries to show off a chipper demeanor to counteract The Beast.
Spider, of course, is NOT fooled by any of this bullshit.
As much as maybe in this moment I needed someone to rail against The Beast in any way, shape, and form, it was very nice to see that Spider Jerusalem stayed true to form and showed a blatant mistrust for any and all politicians, even ones that could possibly take down the monster in charge. The whole point of this series is that corruption is rampant and a simple answer isn’t readily available because of it. But along with that, we get to see that sometimes in an imperfect situation, there are symbols of hope. And I am, of course, referring to the lovely, strong, and badass Vita Severn, the one friggin’ symbol of true hope that The Smiler’s campaign truly has.
I had completely forgotten about Vita. I know why I did (no spoilers), but this time around she left such a positive impression on me she has skyrocketed up to my top five favorite characters in this series. I love that Ellis writes women so well and in such varied ways. You have Channon, a volatile and snarky, but ultimately supportive and caring, ex stripper who will protect Spider at all costs. You have Vita, a brilliant political mind who knows that her choice in candidate is not perfect, but truly feels that it’s the only way to take down an even worse threat. And then, there’s the introduction of Yelena, Spider’s new assistant. Yelena is so different from Channon, in that she has no interest in hanging out with Spider, and deeply resents that she is being made to (she’s Spider’s boss’s niece). And if you thought that Channon didn’t take crap from Spider, Yelena is the absolute master of not taking crap from him. On my first read through of this series I wasn’t as into Yelena, but this time around, I am really enjoying her thus far. Even if she’s a bit 2 Edgy 4 Me at times.
As far as the plot progression goes, as I mentioned before, we get back on track with the main plot in this collection. Spider gets fully pulled into covering the Election, pressured to speak out in favor of the Smiler in spite of the fact that he finds the Smiler pretty corrupt in his own ways. I liked the issues that this raises, bringing up the questions of supporting someone who is flawed and bad in different ways in the name of dethroning and taking down someone who is the evil you already know. I can see arguments for both sides, and I think that Ellis does a good job of showing why both positions have their pros and cons. Along with this, we get to see how flawed Spider himself is. Sure, in the first two collections he’s definitely brash, violent, bitter, and rageful. But in this one we see that he’s also spiraling now that Channon is gone, and that his addiction to drugs is back in full swing. Spider is certainly based in part on Hunter S. Thompson, and it’s in storylines like these that we are reminded that Thompson himself was incredibly screwed up, no matter how brilliant he was. I love Spider, but I applaud that Ellis isn’t making him free of critique or problems that could really do damage to him and to those around him.
Plus, the ending of this collection…… It just gutted me. I had forgotten about it, and I gasped out loud when the big climax happened, because damn was it unexpected, and DAMN did it hurt.
This series continues to be great, and I can’t wait to see what I rediscover next. Even if I know I’m going to get emotionally ravaged again and again. Thanks, Spider. Thanks a lot.
Rating 9: We are back on the main storyline and it goes as dark and darkly funny as you’d expect from this series. It was great seeing Yelena finally show up, and Spider continues to be both the best and the worst.
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