Transmetropolitan Reread

The Great Comics Read-Along: Transmetropolitan v. 9, “The Cure”

“Listen to the chair leg of truth! It does not lie! What does it say? It says ‘shut up, Fred!’ Can you hear it?”

“The Cure” is the second to last volume of Transmetropolitan, and its title has a few readings: first, there is the prostitute Spider finds who can testify (as can her clothes) that she slept with the president—as a Transient, and she appears human now because she took the genetic cure to hide. Secondly, Spider is compiling his “cure” for the Callahan administration. Another possible angle is the way Spider is handling his disease, in the sense that he has taken the cure for the temporary symptoms but the rest are still going.

The end of Spider’s case against Callahan as well as Callahan’s final game both kick off at the end of “The Cure.” One volume left after this and it’s all over. So, let’s get to it.

Below: Mitchell Royce—two fisted editor, more assassinations, journalists at work, and kicking the ass of Fred Christ.

What Happens

Spider, Channon and Yelena check out the disaster zone, which hasn’t apparently been touched despite government claims that they’re helping, then they go to Fred Christ’s hideout. Spider “interviews” him with a chair leg and his fists. Christ admits that he sent along the hookers for the president, but because the pimp at the hotel took credit for them, Fred hasn’t been killed yet—the president doesn’t know that he was the one running the girls, but it won’t take long to put two and two together, so he’s hiding. It’s a matter of time before someone else finds him, aside from Spider and co. The next chapter follows Royce as he puts together the information Spider thought had been wiped from the computers by the president. Turns out, Royce had a backup plan. He delivers it to Yelena’s father’s house along with proof that Callahan had Spider fired. The last three chapters are “The Cure,” which follows the surviving woman who serviced Callahan on his campaign tour. Liesl Barclay managed to survive by taking the cure for Transience and appearing human again, but Spider and the assistants find her with a G-reader. They barely make their escape from the blur-suited assassins who’ve come to murder her. Back at the proverbial Batcave, Spider interviews her and finds out she still has the dress she wore during her time with Callahan. It has his genetic material on it. As Spider writes his story, the army fakes an uprising in the Reclamation Zone. It allows the president to declare martial law: control of the press, etc. In the nick of time, Spider has Qi publish the story, before she can’t anymore. Robert McX asks the president about his liaisons with Transient prostitutes in front of a crowd of other journalists, and that’s the end.

The Part Where I Talk

Oh, the look on the Smiler’s face on the last page of this volume. It is worth a thousand words. Robert McX, the other journalist who’s been following Spider’s work with a keen eye for a few volumes now, asks, “Mister President, tell me: when was the last time you had sexual intercourse with a Transient prostitute?”—then bam, that look of shock and dismay and “oh, goddammit.” It’s lovely. Of course, the bad part is what we see setting up while Spider works. Troops, and a lot of them, covertly coming into the City as Callahan is declaring it a zone of martial law. He has the power and the army behind him; all Spider has is his wits, his friends, and his Filthy Assistants. Then again, he also has the truth, and that’s worth something in his plans. Liesl Barclay is one of the keys to bringing down the Smiler; the only one alive, at least.

Which brings us to Spider’s other evidence, which we thought was lost. Turns out, Royce has been making plans of his own. His speech about editors is pretty awesome: “Let me tell you how it is. You gather the evidence and write stories. That’s what you do. That’s your job. I’m an editor. That means I do everything else.” He then enumerates what that everything else covers, and it includes having contingency plans for all of Spider’s files and data (especially after that fiasco with his cryo-frozen wife and the murder attempts earlier in the series). So, while Spider thought all of his stuff was gone, and so did Callahan—Royce had it covered. I love Royce, I do. (Not only that but he manages to provide the evidence to prove that it was the President who got Spider fired. We had all assumed that, but it’s handy to have proof of the man on top interfering with the journalistic freedom of his citizens.) The case is there, it’s built, and it’s time to throw it like a bomb.

However, there’s the little issue of the City’s martial status to overcome first. There are police literally everywhere, and troops, and blur-suited assassins. Spider and co. are up against a seemingly immovable force bent on their destruction and the break-down of the City. Not to mention the disease Spider’s dealing with. That’s one of the saddest, most painful moments for me: he’s at the keyboard and he can’t find the word he knows he should know. There are tears in his eyes and he starts crying. Spider Jerusalem, big tough man, crying—because he’s lost some of what makes him, him. But he’s so determined that he buckles down and restructures the sentence to skip the word he can’t remember anymore. Maybe it’s being a writer and having my own fear of one day losing the words, but that scene is seriously a gut-punch. Not only that, but he’s still having the nosebleeds, and everyone’s worried. The damage is done and it’s only going to get worse, so it is truly a race against time—not just because the Smiler has set it up to effectively wipe him off the planet.

That explains part of the beginning, where the “chair leg of truth” comes into play. Spider beats the hell out of Fred Christ, partially for revenge and partially for information, and when Fred says he won’t be able to use that information he replies, “You forget, Fred—I’m not employed on a paper anymore. Journalistic ethics no longer apply to me. The rules don’t apply to me… I’m an outlaw journalist now. I can use your words any way I like.” He knows, from the last volume, that he can’t afford to take the same slow, soft route again. It didn’t let him win the last time. Now, he’s racing Callahan and his disease, so getting fired was a blessing. He can do what he needs to do to win that race and get the Smiler kicked down. Spider, Channon and Yelena are ready to win.

The next volume is the last. I can’t wait to talk about the ending.

The Art

Honestly, Royce’s section is my favorite part of the art in “The Cure.” His face is so expressive—faking sad while he trudges into the office, then maniacal grinning, smoke rolling out of his mouth and nose from multiple cigarettes—and it’s probably the most panel time he gets by himself in the series. Robertson plays it up as well as he can. I also like Royce as an art object because he has one of the more “real” bodies. Spider and co. are all, to some extent, trim and fit. Royce has a soft middle. I just love the element of realism. Plus, the small wrinkles next to his eyes and mouth that add age. Robertson pays close attention to the small details of people and faces that make them believable, like the eyeballs or the crooked teeth I’ve mentioned before. Royce is no exception.

Also: Qi is one of the more interestingly drawn characters and she spends more time at the fore in “The Cure.” Her hair is awesome. So is her fashion sense. I adore that all of Robertson’s women look different and have different body shapes, from Channon’s stripper-good-looks to Yelena’s compact curves and Qi’s thin boyishness. They’re real people, too.

That’s it for today’s Tuesday comics jam. Join me next week for the final volume, “One More Time.” If you want to catch up on previous weeks, go here.


Brit Mandelo is a multi-fandom geek with a special love for comics and queer literature. She can be found on Twitter and Livejournal.


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