Travelling Man's Blog

Review: Transreality by Chris LackeY by Travelling Man

Written and drawn by Chris Lackey



James Watson is happily married and lives with his wife and children in Keighley in Yorkshire. James is also a sufferer of Capgras syndrome, a continuous, nagging feeling that something isn’t quite right, coupled with symptoms like memory and time loss and the gnawing sensation that the people around you are impostors. A side effect of physical trauma, Capgras is incredibly rare.

So how come there are four sufferers in Keighley? What year is it? Why are the support group being monitored? What’s really going on? And why is there a llama in James’ garden?

Chris Lackey is one of the hosts of the fantastic HP Lovecraft Historical Society podcast. An animator and illustrator, Chris can now add comic writer and artist strings to his bow. Despite this being his first time working in the field, Transreality is confident, ambitious and joyously subverts your expectations.

In fact, that subversion lies at the heart of the book. It starts off as a Philip K. Dick style ‘curdled reality’ and Lackey cleverly grounds the characters and the story in Keighley. Setting questions about reality up there gives everything a bass note of normalcy that only makes the later events seem all the more bizarre. Lackey also cleverly establishes the central emotional relationships of the book in the Keighley sequence and uses those as the threads to lead the audience, and James, out into the wider world beyond the town. This creates a rock solid emotional core that carries the book through its most outlandish sequences and is, itself, a pleasant break from the norm. James is an everyman, a uniformly normal guy thrown into an incredible situation and Lackey never forgets that. He has no heroic destiny, there are no secrets (well, one) in his past. He’s a man confronted with a total change and his hero’s journey ends with acceptance of his new life rather than something exploding as he walks off in slow motion. The fact it works as well as it does is testament to Lackey’s skill as a writer.

His skills as an artist are pretty impressive too. His line work is very clean and his character interaction, based on models credited in the book, is spot on. Lackey deals with a cast here that includes traditional humans, robots, monsters, a charming pink gorilla and an organic hive mind. All of them are presented in the same clear eyed style and all of them look impressive. If there’s an issue it’s that sometimes the colours seem a little too clean but even that speaks to the nature of the book’s world. As a debut project, let alone a standalone one, this is an amazing achievement.

It’s also, and this is what fascinates me, a hopeful one. James’ life changes utterly less than 20 pages in. He loses, and gains, everything and at no point does Lackey shy away from the emotional impact of it or the new world James finds himself in. It’s not perfect, neither is he, but his polite struggle to understand the world, and help his friends, is genuinely sympathetic. You want him to succeed because this is an amazing place and James deserves his place in it. You care about him, and the rest of the cast and that’s a mark of great writing.

Transreality is a unique graphic novel. Whilst it mixes Invasion of the Bodysnatchers paranoia with Philip K Dick reality subversion and moments that will make Transmetropolitan fans very happy, it’s science fiction that speaks with a voice of its own and does so with authority. Fantastic work and I look forward to seeing what Chris does next.

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[…] Also Chris Lackey put out a really kickass graphic novel a couple of years ago. […]

Pingback by The Man of Words

[…] Chris Lackey is a fiercely talented, prolific guy. As part of the HP Lovecraft Literary Podcast he regular delves into in depth, unflinching and often very funny, textual analysis of Lovecraft’s work. He also produced a graphic novel a couple of years ago called Transreality. It’s great for all sorts of reasons, not the least of which is it’s one of the few stories about the nature of reality I know of that starts in Yorkshire. My review is over here. […]

Pingback by Kickstarting Now: Transreality: New Worlds by Chris Lackey | The Man of Words

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