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Transmetropolitan Vol. 1: Back on the Street Paperback – Mar 17 2009

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 144 pages
  • Publisher: Vertigo (March 17 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1401220843
  • ISBN-13: 978-1401220846
  • Product Dimensions: 16.9 x 0.9 x 25.9 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 159 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (33 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #52,635 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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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 --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.


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) --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Douglas Mann on Dec 25 2008
Format: Paperback
In my view, Warren Ellis is the best writer in comics today, a mantle he inherited from Alan Moore some time after the turn of the millennium. Transmetropolitan is simultaneous funny, obscene (at least according to some), compelling, involving, and sexy. It even contains a sort of "meta-narrative": the search for truth at any cost by its hero Spider Jerusalem and his "filthy assistants" Yelena Rossini and Channon Yarrow.

What's interesting is how since the 1980s, with the partial exception of Frank Miller, the most interesting and least formulaic writers in the comics biz have been British: Moore and Ellis, who are English, Garth Ennis, who is Irish, and Mark Millar, a Scot. This shouldn't be too surprising to my fellow Canadians: often outsiders have a better perspective on a mass medium than its native practitioners (for Canadians I'm thinking of comedy: SCTV, The Kids in the Hall, Mike Myers, Jim Carrey, etc.). The British comics writers have really got a handle on deconstructing the tired formula of the superhero comic - villain/problem shows up, superhero battles villain or solves problem, lives to fight another day and to sell more comics - and on writing stories that take on genres outside of the superhero mainstream, e.g. Ellis's Planetary series.

Transmetropolitan is consistently good as a dark and funny story about a gonzo journalist in messed-up near future scifi semi-dystopia that Ellis calls America, but seems closer in flavour to his own England. Darick Robertson's pencils contribute just the right mood to the series, a combination of whimsy and bitterness (he's a master of background jokes, from an unexplained Loch Ness monster sticking its head out of a crowd in one panel to the many Watchmen references scattered throughout the text, e.g.
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Format: Paperback
Transmet follows the adventures of hard hitting, chain smoking, drug abusing, foul mouthed reporter Spider Jerusalem as he travels through the City of the future. That's the basic premise. However, the series is so much more. It is a discourse on politics, journalism, and above all, The Truth. Especially in today's era of Homeland security and paranoia, the series is vital. Described by Warren Ellis as a 1300 page graphic novel, Transmet is a work of art.
The foundations of the series are layed out in Back on the Street, which collects the first three issues of Spider's journey. Yeah, it's a little short, but you can't skip it- the events in this TPB provide the basis for everything else that happens in the 60 issues run.
Most people know Ellis as the creator of the groundbreaking super-hero comic "The Authority." Understand- there are no super heroes here. There are no hereos, in fact. Ellis conveys the insanity of the city, and the fact that Spider is just doing his best to hep the millions of people who dont want to listen to him. This is the series which Ellis poured most of his persona, and it shows- by the end, you want to find Spider at a bar and listen to him talk all night long. Darrick Robertson's art is amazing- it has the level of detail that Bryan Hitch brings, but still has a comic flair and style which brings the city to life. You can get lost just staring at his buildings.
Buy this book, and then buy the rest. I promise you will find it entertaining. At the very least, it will open your eyes to the word around you.
"That's what I hate most about this city- lies are news and Truth is obsolete." -Spider Jerusalem.
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Format: Paperback
I am not a comic book reader by character, but a friend who is introduced me to Spider Jerusalem. I will not mince words here: Transmetropolitan is... incredible. It exudes rebellious, anti-establishment energy in the same way that a volcano exudes boiling rock. I found myself left with an almost irresistable urge to walk into a grocery naked and punch out a security agent after reading the first collection. Some movies have been characterized as "lifestyle flicks" because they're purpose or effect is to teach a hip or alternative way of looking at the world, and Transmetropolitan is like those in some ways. But it's deeper than that, too. The conflict in the stories is genuine and poignant, and the graphically violent and sexual artwork alone is enough to disturb brain cells into active contemplation. The humor is laugh-out-loud and the evil works much better for more mature audiences than anamistic baddies. The formula of dystopian future is old as beauracracy itself, but Transmetropolitan steers away from the rocky gulfs of cliche, effectively shanghai-ing the genre to a new medium. Anyone who reads it will be glad they did.
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Format: Paperback
This novel in and of itself it a bit thin. It represents the first three comics in the Transmetropolitan series, and it takes us from a peaceful mountain to a squalid city, with great loss of hair.
Spider Jerusalem is a reporter of the future. The future is not the greatest future in the world, but that's about what we expected. Things haven't changed much, with people remaining people despite the neverending careening forward of technology. And Spider understands people and government. How they work and what they do. In his own words, a journalist is a gun with one bullet. Aimed correctly, it can blow the kneecap off the world.
Which is what he proceeds to do.
Before embarking on this series though, a warning is in order. This is not for the easily offended. Or even the occasionally offended. You need a cynical view of the world and thick skin to read Transmetropolitan. The fact that people are cloned, less brains, and sold to Long Pig restaurants shouldn't give you a shiver. Wanton drug use shouldn't bother you - not in the sense of condoning it, but in the sense that you need to be able to accept is as a part of the story without letting it distract.
If you can read this, you'll love it. If your world view just isn't that cynical, run, don't walk, away from this series.
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