The year was 1981. People were going nuts over the video game Pac-Man (wacca waccca waccca…). Some crazy concept television station called MTV began showing only music videos all day everyday (Blotto Anyone?) The movie Raiders of the Lost Ark was melting away Nazis and blowing people’s minds. And people were bitching heavily that the price for a United States postage stamp was going up from .15 cents to .20 cents. Also, the price of a gallon of gas was still quite high after the energy crisis clocking in at a whopping $1.38 a gallon. As for me, I was an innocent lad of eleven years old voraciously reading any comic book I could get my hands on. I seem to remember that The Flash had an anniversary that year and Daredevil met his match in the introduction of Elektra that year too. Good times… Good times.
Across the pond in England, the most excellent comic magazine 2000 AD, that I would not really encounter until college, was moving along strong with its tales of future shock and entropy. During that year of 1981, a character was introduced by Gerry Finley-Day and artist extraordinaire Dave Gibbons that would become one of the most beloved characters from the title. This blue skinned guy who was drawn several years before Gibbons would make another blue character legendary, went by the name of Rogue Trooper. And man oh man, Rogue was one bad assed dude on a bad assed planet. Outside of maybe Judge Dredd himself, Rogue Trooper is arguably one of the best, if not the best from the magazine.
Mr. Trooper was recently revamped and reworked by IDW Publishing, given much of the same treatment that they did with Judge Dredd. And like that title, this beloved character is done justice. It has been a really good series to date (see reviews). It has been well written and true to the essence of the character.
Now if you have read those new ones and want to check out the source material to get a feel for the man that is Rogue Trooper, well then IDW has made it so by releasing several of the original 2000 AD comic strips pieced together and released as Rogue Trooper Classics. The only thing adjusted from these original reprints is some added color. Everything else remains the same and if you read through these introductory tales, you will know why Rogue Trooper is a beloved character. The guy just rocks straight out. This is an incredibly good reprint that holds up extremely well here these thirty-two plus years after their original release.
Rogue is a GI (Genetic Infantry), created to be a super soldier whose body systems are adapted to fight within the disease, destruction, and doom that is called planet Nu Earth. Nu Earth is a mineral rich gem of a planet being sought between the warring factions of the Norts and Southers. During their years long campaign for this planet, both sides have nuked it, gassed it, and left it virtually uninhabitable without the use of breathing apparatus and special “chem” suits. Considered the pride of the Southers, Rogue and his other GIs were to be the turning point of the struggle, but a massacre in a place called the Quartz Zone has left our Rogue all alone, with the exception of three of his fallen comrades, Gunnar, Helm, and Bagman whose life’s essences were converted to disk before their death and placed in specially designed ports until they can be united with new bodies. Rogue, rather than returning to base after the massacre has decided to stay out in Nu earth and search for answers as to how the Quartz Zone massacre happened and who was responsible. The comic follows Rogue and his adventures as he searches for those answers.
This first issue of classics cover the opening five strips of the story which all act as one shots, but also flow quite smoothly together in finding a continuum. As I said, the story holds up extremely well never feeling dated or aged. It is like a fine wine, only made better with age. The writing of Finley-Day rolls smoothly with a perfect mixture of narration and character interaction. The action is intense, but we also get these inner views with back story showing that though our Rogue may be bred for war, he, like any other human can suffer from things like hunger, tiredness, and off course, PTSD. We get a detailed depiction of a complex character who is much more than meets the eye. He’s deep. As deep as he is blue.
With Gibbons, I know he will always be known for Watchmen. But elements of that classic work are displayed here in fine form. It is A+ work covering immense action as well as story. One of Gibbons’ trademarks for me has always been the level of emotion that he puts on the faces of his people. Rogue Trooper covers that element perfectly demonstrating that the artistic legend was bringing it long before Watchmen ever hit the scene.
I got to say that I had a hell of a time reading this collection. It was wonderful and I ended up reading it a couple of more times. What I found is that nothing changed with each reading. It remained just as strong and powerful as before, which is a sign of a very good work. This one is definitely worth the time and investment, along with the new renderings too. IDW, you guys are kicking it like a Hellstreak.
Writer: Gerry Finley-Day Artist: Dave Gibbons Publisher: IDW Publishing Price: $3.99 Release Date: 5/14/14 Format: Print/Digital