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.