Another repackaging of old strips? Yes, but this is a bit special. This is pre 2000AD “Strontium Dog” in a tasty hardcover, with the original colour spreads. Luke has all these in his “Starlords”, but he bought it anyway….
Strontium Dog : Search & Destroy
John Wagner, Carlos Ezquerra, Ian Gibson, Brendan McCarthy, Bill Henry and Keith Page
As much as his current status is a little uncertain, Johnny Alpha is one of the big stars of the prog, but debuted in “Starlord”, IPCs in-house rival to 2000AD. With higher production values and a more hardcore science fiction edge “Starlord” even looked to supercede the Galaxy’s Greatest at one point, but ’twas not to be. It was folded in to the Prog after 22 issues, but gave 2000AD a much needed shot in the arm as both “Robusters” (which led to “ABC Warriors”, “Nemesis” etc) and “Strontium Dog” transitioned to its sister title. You can read more about Starlord here :Starlord : 2000AD’s Short Lived Sibling
For newcomers, Strontium Dog is set in a future where nuclear war and the consequential fallout of Strontium 90 led to a large section of the human population being born mutated. Mutants are a downtrodden underclass, employment opportunities are limited. But the one job that is open to them is bounty hunting as Search / Destroy Agents, pejoratively known as Strontium Dogs.
Best of the Srontium Dogs is Johnny Alpha, whose mutation means he has pupiless eyes, xray vision and the ablity to read minds. Alongside his norm partner Wulf Sternhammer, alien medic the Gronk, Alpha stalk the galaxy collecting bounties and generally making the neighbourhod safe for genetically purer folk.
This collection gathers up all the “Starlord” weekly tales, plus stories from the two annuals and the special. Visually, it’s quite a different Stront from what we’ve seen in the Prog up to Carlos’s passing. Carlos’s art is less open more oppressive, denser, but it does have the glorious full colour double page spreads that characterised these early tales. Reproduction is of a high standard, if the colouring can be a little dark at times.
The gritty hard edged bounty hunting and gadgets are all here, the baddies are really quite odious (and occasionally non PC – this is the late 70s). Wagner occasionally dips into farce (and song) and begins plot threads that are resurrected by he, Carlos and Alan Grant a few years down the line. The dialogue can be a bit hokey, but these are 40 year old strips. Considering the original target market of these strips t’s interesting to compare these strips with what Rebellion consider all ages today.
Carlos’ art makes up the bulk of the collection, but there are fascinating interpretations of Johnny Weird Eyes from a scratchy Ian Gibson …..
….and a young Brendan McCarthy
The weekly stories are clearly the best and all written by Wagner, who provides a brief but affectionate introduction. The stories from the specials have curiousity value, particularly for the art, although Keith Page’s contribution lets the side down.
Is this worth buying? For Carlos’ art alone, by God, good golly yes. But the stories are fun too. It’s an important piece of British comic history and shows that the strip hasn’t really deviated that much from it’s origins.
It’s loving presented. The reviewed copy is the webshop special monochome hardback cover, it has nice paperstock and the backpages are made up of a series of covers from “Starlord”. The only niggle is the “spacer” pages which are repeated throughout to prevent the doublepage spreads being broken up.
The regular print edition isn’t out until November, although the digital edition is out now. But this is the sort of book you’d want on your bookshelf. It’ll fit nicely alongside my “El Mestizo” hardback – but needs a complete collection of “Major Eazy” to complete the set. How about it Rebellion?