10/7/12

"Rogue Trooper: Tales of Nu-Earth Volume 1" by Dave Gibbons, Alan Moore, et al.

In the distant future, a brutal war is waged between the Nort and the Southers on a strategically located planet called Nu Earth. Once it was a habitable planet, but after years of war the air is poisonous, the seas corrosive, and the only population are those engaged in combat. The Southers create a regiment of genetically engineered infantry (GIs) who can can survive on Nu Earth without protection, and have special features that make them better soldiers, but during one of the GI offensive a traitor exposes their location, and all of them are wiped out except the lone Rogue Trooper. He quest is to find the traitor and the generals that lead the attack and to avenge his fellow GIs. As part of his equipment he has the bio-chips of three fallen comrades embedded in his rifle, his helmet and his backpack. The bio-chips were a way for the military to save on training: if a soldier dies in combat they could download the soldier's persona into the chip and then later upload it to a clone for a ready-made soldier.

Alan Moore's name is on the cover, but in this volume he has contributed only two stories. Most of the stories are by Gerry Finley-Day, who also created the Rogue Trooper character and is apparently a real "idea man" for 2000 AD comics. The ongoing premise is of the Rogue Trooper searching for the traitor who betrayed the GIs, but Finley-Day does a good job of making each story personal, much like the war stories in DC's "G.I. Combat" comics. The Rogue Trooper stories ran in 2000AD comics, which isn't like US comics. It came out weekly, didn't have a glossy cover, and contained serialized anthologies. That meant that each issue devoted only three or four pages per character. Finley-Day does a good job of summarizing the past, jumping into the scenario, and then bringing it down to earth in only a few pages.

Of the longer multi-part stories, "Fort Neuro" was the least interesting. In that story, for some reason the Franks, Li-mees, and Roms have all assumed affectations which play out as ridiculous stereotypes (Napoleonic balls, Edwardian hunts, and disco parties). Only thanks to Rogue, and a couple of loyal robots, do the Southers break away from the trap and defend themselves against the Norters. I much rather preferred the stories that advanced the mission of Rogue in finding his traitor.

This volume is all in black & white, which fits the topic, but I also especially like the art work of Dave Gibbons (pre-"Watchmen"), who has some amazing imagination for composition. The black & white gives the stories a stark feeling, and mentions to the color of Rogue's skin (blue) or the acid yellow fog of chemicals are enough for me to add my own colors. Of the other artists, I found that Colin Wilson also had a fine line. Cam Kennedy and Brett Ewins do nice jobs, but they tend more toward darker, heavier lines.

For the sheer bulk, at $19.99 this book is worth the price. Given that the stories have great characters, clever jokes and insights, and tonnes of great art, it's even a better value.

Rogue Trooper: Tales of Nu Earth 1 Stories by Gerry Finley-Day and Alan Moore. Art by Dave Gibbons, Colin Wilson, Brett Ewins and Cam Kennedy.
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