Rogue Trooper 1-4 (IDW)
By Brian Ruckley, Alberto Ponitcelli and Stephen Downer
Review By Seth
I reviewed the first issue a few months ago, but seeing as the series was curtailed I thought I’d review it as a whole. It’s out now in trade paperback, but I’m looking at the 4 individual issues, ‘cos I’m tight and won’t buy the book.
Version 3 then (as I may have said before). We’ve had the original Finley –Day / Gibbons “Rogue Trooper”, the Gibbons / Simpson reboot (Friday) so yes, I guess it is, so long as you ignore the soft resets along the way (Smith/Dillon & Walker, White / Flint, and Rennie et al of latter years).
Rogue has become the “Hawkman” of 2000ad, it’s a cat’s cradle of continuity. So convoluted, contradictory and confusing it makes you realise that more often than not, the creators get it right first time.
Of course, Rogue is not well known outside these shores, and certainly not in the US. Therefore, IDW can take the concept, and use its foundations and build a new structure, replacing, but still in keeping with the spirit of the dilapidated, patched and bodged carbuncle that its predecessor had become.
Anyway, before I get a call from the analogy police, onto the comic.
The back story to Rogue Trooper is well known to any long to medium term 2000ad fan. The last survivor of a massacre of the regiment of genetically engineered infantrymen (GIs), created to fight in a future war, but unencumbered by the gas suits and life support systems required for living things to exist on the former paradise now chemical choked Nu Earth. Seeking revenge on the traitor that sold out his comrades, Rogue carries the bio chip encoded personalities of his comrades Helm, Bagman & Gunnar in his helmet, back pack and gun.
Ruckley is known for his science fiction and fantasy work. He’s a newcomer to comics and to the character, he follows the line of GFD & Gibbons, but eschews the goofier elements of the original, and lets be fair he has a slightly older target audience than the early eighties debut. Ruckley takes his time with leading us into Rogue’s origin and background, a slow burn, with piece meal exposition. He gives a Rogue rebooted and everso slightly remodelled for a new audience. This is a grittier Rogue for the new century.
This is a Rogue who is disturbed by what he has seen in his short life, he’s vulnerable, has trouble sleeping, suffers from flashbacks, but without the ponderous (verging on the deathly dull) internal monologue of Friday’s early years. The team changes a few things, but they are a logical move, he doesn’t even have a name until issue 2, and even then it’s meant as a wind up by his bio chip buddies.
Helm, Bagman and Gunnar have are pretty much the same as the originals, though the speech bubbles only differ slightly in colour which makes it difficult to differentiate between them occasionally. They act more as a team and bicker between themselves, criticising and evaluating Rogue’s performance as they go, but are colder toward him. To them he’s “transport”.
The plot is pretty tight and acts as an introduction for what was going to be the ongoing series. Rogue rescues a rookie Souther from a Nort execution squad. The rookie takes him to a Souther outpost that is about to come under heavy attack from the Norts. In the meantime, Rogue brings his own trouble. Pursued by a Souther Kill Team to recover the deserter and military property, Rogue gets put through the ringer – tasered, shot, delirious and kept going only by Bagman’s injecting him with meds.
These 4 issues established numerous plot threads, the mysterious “Angel” that helps Rogue with his quest, Helm clearly has some problems, and just who is the traitor in this version? Doubtless it would have beenfascinating to follow over the months to follow. If only it would have sold more eh?
Ponticelli’s art is gritty, chunky and scratchy, I described him in the review of issue 1 as an Italian version of Jock, which pretty much stands. He hasn’t got the design sense of Gibbons, but the tech’ looks believable and that it could work. If I have any criticism (and it’s what I said in the review of issue 1) the helmet just doesn’t work for me. It looks like a modern firefighter’s helmet, the backpack looks like a robotic beetle, and attaches itself to points on Rogues’ torso, and the gun is less distinctive than the original. I can’t fault Ponticelli’s story telling; with this and his previous work on “Frankenstein : Agent of Shade” he’s become a bit of a favourite. Sombre colouring lends atmosphere to the figures dragging themselves through the pock marked and chem’ cloud shrouded landscapes.
Largely, IDW has so far been impressive with its interpretation of 2000ad’s characters (let’s just not mention the ongoing Judge Dredd series), it’s a damn shame this went toes up. I’d have been happy to see this continue in the weekly (though Guy Adams’ recent strip was pretty spiffy too).
Highly recommended. Definitely worth picking up in the back issues or the trade.
Review by Eamonn Clarke.
Here is an nice collection of one of the weirder strips to appear in the early years of 2000AD. This ran in Progs 185 – 218 from 1980 to 1981 and the short version of this review reads: “Brilliant. Buy it”.
Written by Malcolm Shaw with superlative art by Jesus Redondo and lettered throughout by Bill Nuttall, it also has a very cool title font on each of the 34 episodes that makes me wonder if it was designed by the late Jan Sheapherd. The plot is fiendishly complicated with a deep space vessel encountering some form of wormhole which transports it to a planet covered in frozen bodies, some of which look like horned devils. Proving that the crew have never seen John Carpenter’s The Thing they carve out one of the bodies, defrost it and then somehow manage to produce two clone kids from it. One of them rapidly evolves to became The Destroyer, a creature of pure evil, while the other appears to be a normal human called Amtrak who may be the only person who can end his malevolent twin’s reign of terror. Along the way Amtrak will pick up a one-armed robot sidekick called Seeker, a good looking human companion named Eve and, of course, a magic sword.
It’s all just bonkers and I haven’t even mentioned the space pirates yet. It moves on in a frenetic fashion packing miles of story into each five page episode and proving that you can tell a sprawling space opera epic in this limited format. It’s so complicated that the introductory text box in the first panel of each instalment soon fills up with smaller and smaller text trying to bring the new reader up to speed. It is tremendously exciting for a children’s comic book story from 34 years ago and Mr Shaw was clearly a scribe with a very vivid imagination. Some of the stuff is quite terrifying, proving that kids do love a good scare in the safe environments of their comics, books and films.
And all of this is beautifully presented in Redondo’s stunning black and white line work. There is one colour two page spread where this story made the centre pages for one prog and the colour adds very little, in fact I prefer the monochrome pages. Redondo was another Spanish master in these early Progs and I hope we learn a little more about him in the forthcoming Future Shock documentary.
Of course the art does suffer in places from being shrunk down from Prog size to fit a trade paperback which makes some of the panel layouts look a little dark and cluttered. There are also a couple of lettering glitches where words seem to have dropped out or be missing letters and I’m not sure if that is due to the originals or the reproduction. In terms of extras we get the four colour covers that Return To Armageddon appeared on at the back of the book, the usual one paragraph creator bios, but no introduction. I know the margins must be tight on these Rebellion trades but could they not find room for a one page introduction? I’m sure there would be fans from the forum queuing up to write one for free.
Minor gripes aside this is a lovely trade collection of one of those bizarre gems from the halcyon days of 2000AD. Give Rebellion your money and get a copy, you won’t regret it. Five star stuff.
You can check out more of Eamonns reviews at Thank you for your Attention blog
With another of his unique insights, here’s Orlok with his take on 1893…
COVER: A Sylvia Plath platter of Walter, Mrs G and Dredd in a Happy days ‘the gangs all here’ schmaltzy greeting card. Macneil pulls together a nice tight group shot, heavy lines and pleasant bright colours. With Walter on the Death swally, what’s not to like?
DREDD: A night in Sylvia Plath
A respectful and wonderful return of THE Dredd logo in memory of it’s designer, Jan Shepheard, looms above this weeks Wagner and Macneil, giving us a reminder of the good ol’ days. I’ve heard of a groundswell of opinion who would like to see it’s return permanently. Sadly I’ve also heard of the ‘technicalities’ for the reasons why it won’t be staying. 2000AD have arsed about with some shocking font styles in the past on Dredd and we are no longer using UHU and plastic scissors in the studio, so make it happen Tharg. Back to the strip, and we have a rogue Walter running amok in the booze isle (love the Cy-DUR, complete with the CUD band udder) until Dredd confronts his former droid, who is now a ‘fwee robot’, the very mention of which stirs the Lawman to such an extent that we don’t see very often, if at all. The art fits the story perfectly and Macneil shows us the versatility with his styles in his ‘bold line’ phase. The same can’t really be said of the colours unfortunately, as they are strangely muted, entrenched in brown and grey tones at odds with the cover palate, almost as if Chris Blythe had only been given 3 crayons to play with. Wagner is the old hand here, well versed in the history (he wrote it) and is having fun with his creations as the soap opera plays out much to our amusement, showing how the Dredd ‘funny’ should be done. The bed sock/dreadlocks gag doesn’t get any better and I feel I’m back in the mid 80’s reading my prog as the Don serves up this welcome slice of nostalgia.
SINISTER DEXTER: Congo
Dan dan daaaan! Crikey, what a cliffhanger, I mean what could possibly happen in the next episode? Well me for one, hopes it opens with Tracy Weld having gotten as bored as we all have, waking up from a VERY bad dream (yep the past 10 years!), realising that Piper is in the Shower (who she erm… maybe thought was dead like). Cut to a copy of the days paper on the bed showing Sinister and Dexter very dead, shot in the bollocks or something and with a twist that NO ONE saw coming, the two bints deciding to take a trip to Lesbos to celebrate. No? I mean come on, ‘Ted fucking Behr’… shoot me now.
I’ve not been across this strip yet in my musings and I have to say I’m still quite undecided in how I feel about the main character and how he connects within the 2000AD universe. The premise of Aquila isn’t wholly original and thereby we are constrained in many ways on how the development of the centurion is fleshed (literally) out. Saying all that, I’m really enjoying the story and the script is tight, pithy and accessible in it’s delivery giving a nice rhythm to proceedings. The art is absolutely glorious as Gallagher dances to the beat, giving life to all and sundry in the streets of Rome, including an almighty fuck off Golem/Momster of Rock type thing, which you can’t fail to be astonished by. The furtive, distrusting faces in the shadows are captured in the distinctive style we have grown to admire, with the movement in the panels perfectly paced between stealth and animation. As a big fan of Dylan Teague, I am often left feeling that he is somewhat wasted on colouring detail, yet he gets the night scenes absolutely spot on. Great stuff all round.
BRASS SUN: Floating Worlds
An ‘explanation’ episode from the blind watchmaker, or Colonel Sanders, Sean Connery and the one with the moustache out of Hall and Oates if you like. I’m with a few of the other reviewers on here, in that while I don’t dislike Brass Sun, I wish that it would get a bit of a move on. I have found myself on more than one occasion, flicking back to see if I really have read all five pages and after re-reading the first series back to back, can confirm it works much better in this way. The art whilst simplified and panel filling, is none the less a refreshing change of scenery from the usual fayre and it reminds me a little of the Hernandez brothers work in ‘Love and Rockets’. All in all, nice ‘Journey into the mind of Wren’ interlude which fills in some of the blanks on the way. Where too I’m still unsure, but hoping it’s going to be a little quicker, although I’ve got a feeling that it will be via some more ‘near misses with big monsters’ cliffhangers en route… and yes I am ‘aware’ that I’m using too many ‘quotation’ marks, bloody ‘Sinister Dexter’…
“This week, I am mostly come to spill Troll Blood!”… ah, now I used them as speech marks there, and what a speech. Almost as insightful as “By Odin’s Beard!”… now where have I heard that cucumber before by der gotts, etc. To be fair, Black Shuck wasn’t ever going to stand up well against the other historical piece in the prog. Yeowell’s art is, ahem, improved let’s say and we have much more detail in the panels than we have seen in previous adventure stories by his pens. The chopping, burning, monster/beast scenes are pretty damn good and Steve does a nice boat, drinking horn and helmet. However I can’t help but feel that I’ve read all this somewhere/time/place else and it’s not really floating my boat, filling my horn or polishing my errrm, boots. The scripting could do with a little more light relief than it’s current dour demeanour, almost taking itself too seriously in trying to be authentic. A great chance missed could have been the line “…troll gold, yellow as Dutchman’s piss”… ‘Speech marks’ there again – ooops and last ones now, promise…
TOP THRILL: ‘Dooom Dooom DOOOM!’ …The Thriller that’s Aquila.