Pullbox Reviews: The Transporter- Mutant mayhem & a Nameless anti-hero

Human life has been devastated by an unstoppable virus … Not a disease, but a chemical reaction that attacks iron, destroying everything that contains them and setting civilization back hundreds of years. It even affects the iron that is present in blood—enough to cause bizarre mutations and affect human fertility. Amid the resulting chaos, one man has set himself an unusual mission: to transport anything anywhere for anyone—for a price. But what he asks in return is no less mystifying than his self-appointed role… as the Transporter.

Throughout history, for as long as there has been someone telling stories of daring do, there have been tales of people willing to commit violent acts for various reasons. Whether it’s for the sake of honor and justice, in defense of the helpless, or in return for payment due, these shadowy figures have sparked the imagination. In the world of The Transporter, where greed and barbarism are a way of life, the common use of metal is a memory and genetic mutations of all shapes & sizes are the norm.

One man travels the broken highways, always alone and in search of his next deal. His legend and reputation follow him: he’ll take on any job, and once his word is given he’ll move Heaven & Earth to see the contract fulfilled. But proceed with caution, because the true cost of doing business with The Transporter has yet to be fully revealed…

Once again, the folks at Le Lombard (Belgium) & Europe Comics have come up with new and inventive ways to tell old stories. In The Transporter, classic themes of the Western are melded with post-apocalyptic fantasy… which I suppose really is the best way to tell a post-apocalyptic story. Sure, the whole “what if all the metal in the world went away and technology didn’t work anymore” has been pretty well covered (S.M. Stirling’s Emberverse series of novels, and The Realm from Image Comics), but in this story the addition of wondrous/horrific mutations coupled with the singular Man of Mystery & a few nicely timed twists spin things up just enough to make the familiar a little more interesting.

Tristan Roulot has created a pretty dark and grisly world, and he’s populated it with some pretty grim and morbid people. I don’t really think there’s anyone in this book who isn’t motivated by self-centered concerns to at least some degree. It works to keep a reader wondering, just what is going on here & why are these people doing what they’re doing? In the case of the titular Transporter, that whole attitude is doubled down. We know next to nothing about the man, except that no job is too big for him to take on and that he always delivers. What we don’t know is why he’s so driven to such a dangerous life, where his true loyalties lie, or exactly what it is that makes him so formidable. Sure, bits and pieces are revealed as the story unfolds, but even by the end of volume 1 readers are left with questions. At least, I was… but I never claimed to be all that bright.

Helping with the story telling for this most visual of the written mediums, Dimitri Armand has laid out something just shy of miraculous. The action in The Transporter is handled with a good eye toward dynamic choreography. Covering pretty much all of the environments you could imagine in a Mad Max world, Armand has the grit and grime covered. Combine those elements with an impressive array of character design work and his ability to compose layouts with themes that cover the full range of what could be considered uncomfortable to downright gruesome, and I’d hold this book up next to any other in terms of artwork design.

If there were a hitch in this book, it would be in a couple narrative jumps that could have used more of a transition. The biggest leap happens when, at one point later on in the book, the perspective jumps and the story was being told by a completely different character. After going back and figuring out where the switch happened, I saw how the new “voice” would have worked cinematically- and it would have worked very well with the help of sound and spoken dialogue- but without some kind of cue to help the reader along it was a little confusing.

Minor speed bumps aside, The Transporter was a great read. Fans of post-apocalyptic adventure could do a lot worse than giving this one a try. Fair warning, there are some very mature themes that truly highlight the differences in sensibility between European & American comics. This isn’t for the squeamish or prudish, but none of the violence or adult situations came across as being gratuitous or out of line in the story.

Final Score: 10/13

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