Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Strontium Dog: The Project

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 Strontium Dog: The Project (Rebellion, 2011-2012).

Johnny Alpha's resurrection in the pages of 2000 AD has made for some fascinating comics. The character, who had been the lead in the Strontium Dog feature, had met his end in 1990, ending the series and shifting the focus onto the supporting players. A decade later, creators John Wagner and Carlos Ezquerra began telling "flashback" stories set at various points in Johnny's lifetime, but always left his demise, which had been orchestrated by other creators, intact.

In 2010, Wagner and Ezquerra got everybody in fandom talking with a remarkable story called "The Death and Life of Johnny Alpha." In it, a supporting character from these flashback stories tracks down Johnny's old partner Middenface McNulty. She's following up a story that suggests Johnny had not been killed in his final adventure after all. The trail leads them to a disgraced bounty hunter named Feral and more and more clues, tying into classic Strontium Dog continuity and introducing some wild concepts that build on the originals. Johnny Alpha's universe had always been a very strange one, with the dark magic of villains like Malak Brood and the Sorcerors of Lyra waiting in the shadows of the western-in-space melodrama. This story delves straight into the darkness, and the story, the first of an apparent arc of three, ends with Johnny Alpha restored to life, but with a very weird price.

The second story, "The Project," began in December's Prog 2012 and continued for the next eight issues (1764-1771, for those interested in clicking the image and purchasing them from Clickwheel). It's all kinds of fun, with the Johnny who came back from... wherever he was not quite the same man he was before. He has a strange voice in his head that keeps chastising him, and he's not quick to confide in Middenface about it. Recuperating, they are attacked by strange gunmen who can regenerate their bodies after death, and who have badges from the Search/Destroy Agency that employs the Strontium Dogs.

As an action thriller with a slow-burning detective fiction edge, this is an incredibly fun and rewarding comic, and each installment left me anxious to learn what would happen next. This is why I read comics, basically. Highly recommended.

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