Publisher: Massive Black
Writer/Artist: Justin “CORO” Kaufman
Review by: Eric Stuckart
To me, the greatest thing about comics is their ability to allow the reader to suspend his or her disbelief in a way that other forms of storytelling, mainly film, ever could. I think that’s the greatest asset that it has, because in a certain way, it’s still tied to the imaginative, ‘anything’s possible’ belief system that books are so very good at conveying. The mind’s eye can fill in the blanks, per se, and all we need is a little nudge from the book’s artwork.
In that sense, a book like Transient probably wouldn’t be able to work in any other form of popular visual media. Its concept most certainly wouldn’t work in a video game, what with the heroic lead character not being enough of an antihero or a hero; hell, he’s not even close enough to being what many would view as a regular guy. And with that, it probably wouldn’t work too well as a film either, for much the same but entirely different reasons. Why, you ask? Because the hero’s name is Bob, and he is a homeless man living on the streets of San Francisco. Bob has a secret. He can see multidimensional beings — some good, some evil — and because of that, he must stay living on the streets, as a ‘guardian of humanity.’
You see, Bob is very much like those often-stereotyped homeless people that are found on the streets of major metropolitan cities, talking to themselves, but according to the lore of Transient, most often they are talking to people that we simply do not have the ability to see ourselves. When one of Bob’s friends explodes before his very eyes in a back alley, he has to get to the bottom of it. With the help of a few other vagrants that he meets along the way, he finds out that he is one of the most powerful beings alive, and that another transient with powers matching his plans on using his powers to rule the world. The only problem is that they’re being chased by an angry bum that can transform into pigeons at will, and the small fact that they’re in San Francisco while their enemy is in Sacramento.
In a highly entertaining fashion, it takes a wholly ridiculous concept and runs with it in a way that takes the reader on an insane adventure to save humanity. It helps that the book was conceived and written as a black comedy, so it helps to ease the concepts just ever so slightly, but even with that, the art style found within is some of the most imaginative, creepy, and sometimes-NSFW that I’ve ever laid my eyes upon. Most of the interdimensional beings that Bob encounters are horrific and twisted, to the point that I’d almost say they look inspired by some mind-expanding substances, but I mean that in the best way possible. Honest. Think the creatures from Where the Wild Things Are on LSD.
Justin Kaufman’s art style is big and emphatic, in a bold, painted style that is at times deliberately sloppy but never boring. Many of his panels stretch across entire pages, with smaller panels strewn in a way that doesn’t muddle the action. He clearly knows how to tell a story, and even though this is technically his first graphic novel, it doesn’t come across as such. His dialogue fits the characters without seeming stereotypical, and he keeps the story’s pace moving at an even, suspenseful flow. It must also be mentioned that Transient’s larger, 8 ½” x 14” size suits the huge sequences found within.
The book also features a decent sized concept gallery of images and character designs created by friends of Kaufman’s, which ended up being the inspiration for some of the characters found in the book. Some of the images found in the gallery are even more insane than the ones found in the story, but they’re all very interesting to look at, and combined with the deluxe size of the hardcover book, make for a very nice package altogether.
Transient is not your typical comic book. The heroes and villains found within are all from the homeless sect, and I suppose that some people consider that to be a patronizing concept, but Kaufman handles the characters in a sense that doesn’t pander to any specific mindset with his characters. There aren’t any subtle undertones to them aside from the fact that he’s playing off of an already well-known stereotype, which makes for a pretty interesting concept. These characters are operating on a higher level, and happen to be homeless for reasons that don’t necessarily matter to the story. Also, as mentioned earlier, some of the creatures found within are creepy and not for the faint of heart. Without spoiling anything, some of them may push the line a little too far for some readers, and that’s an understandable point. But to those looking for something much different than the normal ‘hero saving humanity’ concept, Transient could very well be your fix.
For more info, as well as an extended preview of Transient, visit transientman.com