5 stars “Journalism is a gun,” outlaw reporter Spider Jerusalem wrote high above the City as the streets burned below. “It’s a gun with only one bullet, but if you aim it right, you can blow a kneecap off the world.” With this scene early in the 60-issue Transmetropolitan, writer Warren Ellis and artist Darick Robertson established the mood that would carry through the series: a hard, cynical shell, surrounding a surprisingly tender core of hope and faith in the power of communication. The story follows Spider Jerusalem, a burned-out journalist with more than a passing resemblance to Hunter S. Thompson, as he reports the stories of everyday life and high-level politics in a nameless, faceless City of the far future. Transmet represents Ellis at the peak of his powers: endlessly angry and with a soft spot for the downtrodden and powerless. Darick Robertson’s art neatly straddles the series’ dual weapons of over-the-top humor and bitter irony. The series began as a commentary on politics that seemed drawn from a long-gone fascist age; near its end, it seemed alarmingly prescient. “Am I getting the fuck THROUGH to you people?” Spider screams to the world as a presidential fraud deletes constitutional amendments one by one on increasingly trumped-up grounds. Afflict the comfortable, comfort the afflicted, give voice to the voiceless: Somehow, Warren Ellis seemed to understand the journalist’s credo far more than many journalists and, to this day, I don’t know if that’s comforting or afflicting. Transmet was published monthly by DC/Vertigo from 1997 to 2002. Seven trade paperbacks collect the bulk of the series, with the rest coming soon; the best place to start is the three-issue collection Back on the Street.