Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Rogue Trooper: Tales of Nu-Earth Volume 1

What I try to do with reviews at this Bookshelf blog is keep it simple and spoiler-free, and let you know whether I'd recommend you pick up a copy of what I just read. Seems to work okay. This time, a brief review of Rogue Trooper: Tales of Nu-Earth Volume 1 (Rebellion, 2010)

Here's a book which, honest to heaven, I did not need. I don't mind the reputation I get as one of 2000 AD's online cheerleaders, and as I have cut way, way back in buying new comics, it's only the constantly-improving, mindblowing platinum age of the Galaxy's Greatest Comic (well, and Legion of Super-Heroes) that has my ongoing interest in the medium at all these days, and it's sort of expected that I'll buy all these things the publisher releases. But Rogue Trooper is far from my favorite property in the 2000 AD world, and this is a series that has been reprinted a lot. Unfortunately for my wallet, I neglected to send an exception to my regular order at my favorite comic shop, and, well, now I have these stories for at least the fifth time.

Having said that, if you've never read Rogue Trooper before, you could certainly do a lot worse. This collects all of the character's adventures from 1981 to 1983, written by Gerry Finley-Day and illustrated, brilliantly, by the likes of Dave Gibbons, Eric Bradbury, Brett Ewins, Cam Kennedy and Colin Wilson. The artwork really is terrific. I've long lost interest in revisiting these storylines, but the artwork constantly sucks me right back in.

These are future war adventures set on a hellworld with poisonous atmosphere. The only man who can breathe in this toxic nightmare is the last of a company of genetically-engineered super-soldiers. He's accompanied by the squabbling dogtags of three of his dead buddies - "biochips" which retain personalities and memories until they can be returned for newly-grown bodies. But since our hero's company has been betrayed by a traitor general and the ironically-named Rogue has gone AWOL to track that man down, they can't be returned any time soon.

I've always accepted that Rogue Trooper is a great icon for merchandising and adverts - Rebellion made a good video game of him in 2006 - thanks to Gibbons' simple, but memorable design. But honestly, these stories are pretty darn juvenile, without the necessary kick that keeps them interesting for older readers. Preteen boys would eat this up before anybody else, although the artwork is a selling point on its own. Also of interest are two bonus episodes. The meat of the book reprints all of the weekly episodes from about a 19-month stretch, but among the bonus supplements are two rare episodes scripted by Alan Moore that originally appeared in the old annual hardbacks. One of them is pretty by-the-numbers; the second, with art by Jesus Redondo, is probably the best story in the book.

For those of you who've kept an eye on Rebellion's ongoing reprint program of the last six years, Tales of Nu-Earth 01 collects the entire contents of the two books released some years ago in partnership with DC, plus the Alan Moore episodes, plus the first seven episodes from the third book, which Rebellion released without DC's involvement. It's a very nice upgrade, as upgrades go, just not one that I personally needed. If readers would please excuse my lack of enthusiasm, I do recommend this for the art - there's not a page of Gibbons that shouldn't be owned by everybody who likes comic art - but really only for readers who have not bought the previous editions.

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