Graphic Novel Week: Mini reviews

Reading in Winter Graphic Novel Week

To conclude this fantastic week of graphic novel celebration, organised by Kristilyn of Reading in Winter, I have written mini reviews of all the graphic novels I have read lately. I didn’t get through all of my reading list I set myself on Monday, but considering I was busy three evenings out of the five I don’t think I did too badly!

Transmetropolitan 1Transmetropolitan Vol 1: Back on the Street
by Warren Ellis (writer) and Darick Robertson (penciller)

Spider Jerusalem is a sweary, drug-addled, weapons-loving misanthropic journalist who retired to the mountains when fame started to make people actually like him. Now he’s running out of money and his publisher is threatening legal action if he doesn’t finally stump up the two books he’s contracted for, so he reluctantly returns to the one place where he knows he can write – the City. Ellis and Robertson depict a frightening future, a world that has got more extreme in every way. There is clearly a lot of Hunter S Thompson in Spider, but in a world where his brand of truth-telling is more badly needed than ever. Spider talks/coerces his way into a job writing a weekly column and as the words begin to flow, he becomes fractionally less awful as he has somewhere to channel his hatred, anger and misery. There’s great black humour in the words and the artwork – I definitely recommend paying attention to the details in every frame as there are so many stories being told here.

“I’ve shut off the mine-fields and the intelligent guns. For the first time in five years, there is nothing menacing in my garden. Five years of shooting at fans and neighbours, eating what I kill and bombing the unwary. Five years of being alone. I can’t begin to describe the ways I’ll miss the mountain…I could cry. I really could. Journalists do not cry. And I am a fucking journalist again.”

This collection published 1998 by DC Comics.

Source: Borrowed from Tim.

transmet 2Transmetropolitan Vol 2: Lust for Life
by Warren Ellis and Darick Robertson

In this volume, Spider Jerusalem gains a glamorous assistant called Channon who is both a fan and capable of handling his ridiculous habits, and starts finding himself a series of subjects for his column “I Hate It Here”. Often several pages in a row are, effectively, his column, calling attention to the poor and desperate of the city. He repeatedly breaks or bends the law not just to get his story, but also to exact small revenges on those he feels have failed the city in some way. There is one incredible and moving story about a woman called Mary who is revived from cryogenic sleep to find herself alone in a bewildering and inhospitable future. In another story, Spider visits a series of reservations created outside the city to preserve old cultures, where the desire for authenticity has stretched to removing the anti-cancer gene that humans have developed. It begins to be clearer in this volume how Spider comes to be so very fucked up. This is a truly fucked-up world and anyone who keeps their eyes open and dares to care is going to find their nature twist. It’s powerful, entertaining stuff.

“Mucus and soundbites. I remember this feeling now, from the last days before I went to the mountain. The sudden feeling that this place is Not On Your side. I’m hiding now. And writing. I can’t stop, even now. This goddamned city makes me write even when it wants me dead.”

This collection published 1998 by DC Comics.

Source: Borrowed from Tim.

Transmet 3Transmetropolitan Vol 3: Year of the Bastard
by Warren Ellis and Darick Robertson

Spider Jerusalem was made famous years ago by writing a bestselling book about a presidential election campaign so now he is desperately trying to ignore the approach of election time, while his editor and readers clamour for his opinion on it all. Inevitably he is sucked into following the election of an opposition candidate for the current president, known as the Beast. Spider is accompanied by his new assistant Yelena, in many ways the opposite of Channon – a brooding, resentful girl who disapproves of Spider in every way. But Spider is busy now figuring out what the two main candidates have to hide and which of them is capable of beating the hated Beast. Ellis is careful not to use words like Republican or Democrat but there is still plenty of applicable-to-real-life insightful political commentary here, phrased as always in Spider’s spleen-filled invective.

“Two days in this whirlwind have left me shipwrecked and abandoned. Even the stuff I’ve been shooting in order to, Holmes-like, keep my interest in the world alive is failing me now. I’ve played the game like a good little whore, snarled and cursed on cue…I’ll let myself sleep soon, and hope to hell the world doesn’t seem so goddamn fractured when I wake up. Having said that, I also hope I wake to find half this city committed suicide in my honour.”

This collection published 1999 by DC Comics.

Source: Borrowed from Tim.

transmet 4Transmetropolitan Vol 4: The New Scum
by Warren Ellis and Darick Robertson

It’s time to elect a new president – will it be the Smiler or the Beast? Spider Jerusalem interviews both candidates, savagely digging for the truth, for which man will be the lesser evil. There are glimpses too of the “New Scum” – the city’s poor for whom Spider has declared himself spokesperson – but this is largely another political volume. After the revelations of Year of the Bastard there is little hope that the outcome of the election will really change anything, so this is the bleakest volume yet. There is some light relief from Channon and Yelena bickering but overall I struggled a little to maintain the excitement that had had me reading eagerly through these books. Still gotta love Spider’s columns though.

“And there you have it, reader. The Beast believes in something, perverted and filthy as it is…I was so shocked that I almost forgot to plant the guerilla neurotransmitter gel…And that, Mr President, is why you’ve been hallucinating having sex with speed-crazed Barbary Apes suffering from irritable bowel syndrome for the last week. And now you know what it’s like to have you as president; what it’s like to be constantly fucked by someone who stinks of shit.”

This collection published 2000 by DC Comics.

Source: Borrowed from Tim.

transmet 5Transmetropolitan Vol 5: Lonely City
by Warren Ellis and Darick Robertson

Oh man. While volume 4 had me doubting this series, volume 5 has me convinced it is the greatest comic series I have read. Ellis really stepped it up a notch, I felt. Back on the city streets, Spider Jerusalem and his assistants stumble across a hate crime that doesn’t seem to be getting proper attention. When Spider calls the police out on it in his column, he unleashes a horrific series of events. Despite the futuristic setting and indeed the futuristic aspects of the crime itself, the rest of this storyline could terrifyingly easily happen in the real world today; arguably it has already happened over and over. I was chilled to the core and my fandom of the series fully reawakened. Also, this volume has an introduction by Patrick Stewart. Seriously. Cool.

“You went to all the trouble of conceiving me, and giving birth to me, and raising me and feeding me and clothing me and all. And yeah, whipping me from time to time, and making me live in a house that’s freezing fucking cold all the goddamn time. And you make me cry and things hurt so much and disappointments crush my heart every day and I can’t do half the things I want to do and sometimes I just want to scream. And what I’ve got to look forward to is my body breaking and something flipping off the switch in my head. I go through all this – and then there’s death? What is the motherfucking deal here?”

This collection published 2001 by DC Comics.

Source: Borrowed from Tim.

Ex_Machina,_the_First_Hundred_DaysEx Machina Vol. 1: The First Hundred Days
by Brian K Vaughan (writer) and Tony Harris (pencils)

Imagine The West Wing with superpowers, well, just one specific superpower really, but even so – amazing combo, right? Civil engineer Mitchell Hundred just became mayor of New York City, running on a campaign of independence, promising to unite left and right, but everyone knows he was really elected because he outed himself as the Great Machine, the first superhero, and his last super act before hanging up his hero’s suit was stopping the second plane from hitting the World Trade Center on September 11th. Now in true Jed Bartlett style, he must wrestle with the petty and ridiculous when he’d rather be tackling the big issues. But there’s the added difficulties of the NSA demanding he no longer use his special powers and a freak snow storm threatening to cripple the city. There are lots of great female characters, lots of interesting political machinations and I’m eager to see where this goes next.

“‘Ms Padmilla, I admire your tenacity, but I do have a press secretary.’

‘Yeah, one who refuses to divulge the origin of your psychic rapport with machinery.’

‘First of all, I’m not psychic. That’s just dumb. And secondly, you know damn well the NSA has ordered me not to comment on any “extra-normal abilities” I might have.’

…’Are you an alien?…What kind of pseudonym is Hundred anyway?’

‘For the last time, I am a thirteenth-generation American. My ancestors renamed themselves after Brandywine Hundred, the division of Delaware where they settled. And unless you can prove to me that Myles Standish – captain of the fucking Mayflower – was an alien, I’m done answering retarded questions about my planet of origin.’

…’Let’s roll…Ahh, shit! She’s gonna quote me on “retarded”, isn’t she?'”

This collection published 2005 by Vertigo Comics.

Source: Excelsior! comic book shop, Bristol.

serenity 4Serenity Vol. 4: Leaves on the Wind
by Zack Whedon (script) and Georges Jeanty (pencils)

This picks up where the film Serenity left off (the previous three comic volumes filled in back story, both before Firefly and between Firefly and the film). The tone is pitched perfectly, depicting the crew dealing with the emotional and practical fallout from the film’s events while also setting up a new story thread and new characters – good, bad and wavering inbetween. Not every character gets equal air time (frame time?) – for instance, I hope that future volumes give Kaylee and Simon more story – and I also felt that Kaylee’s dialogue played her as dumber than she ever came across in the TV series. However, overall I thoroughly enjoyed this volume, especially the gorgeous chapter page artwork by Dan Dos Santos.

“Life’s a funny thing. We cling to it so dear. The thought of losing it pushed down deep with all the other dirty little things we don’t like to see the light of day. Yet it is so easy to take a life. We’re so soft. So fragile…We’re built to live but we’re so easy to kill. Does that seem right to you?”

This collection published 2014 by Dark Horse Books.

Source: Excelsior! comic book shop, Bristol.