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2000 AD Rogue Trooper Attacks Nu-Earth

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The end of the human race will be that it will eventually die of civilization.
Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803 - 1882)

Smoking cigars, throwing cards on a dimly table, engaged in a manly game of Bridge, I'm sure Emerson and Rogue Trooper, Genetic Infantryman, would agree wholeheartedly. In Rogue Trooper's world, civilization is defined by who is the most inventive weapons engineer and how destructive the weapon is to man and environment. This is the world Rogue Trooper walks:

Orbiting near a black hole, a gateway for space combat troops, Nu-Earth is a planet of deadly strategic importance. Once a lush green planet, its atmosphere is poisoned by chemical warfare. In this battle ground between the Norts and the Southers only the Genetic Infantrymen can survive.

Rogue is the last G.I. having survived the Quartz Zone Massacre, betrayed by one of their own generals. Gone on a mission of revenge, he travels the poisoned Nu-Earth in search of the traitor. He is accomponied by the digitized souls - bio-chips - of three fellow G.I.'s in Rogue's backpack, gun and helmet. 

Like an alien Ogami Itto, Rogue Trooper haunts the poisoned landscapes of Nu-Earth. Behind a very simple revenge premisse lays a richly textured future world developed by writer Gerry Finley-Day and originally visualised by Dave Gibbons. Obviously tailored by Gerry Finley-Day on mankind's worst efforts: WWII, the American Civil War and the Cold War; the Norts and the Southers on Nu-Earth excel both in human suffering. It is the Norts that are the most militaristic though. Their motivations are never made clear - neither those of the Southers - but they seem to have a fascist streak complementarily visualized by full body suits hiding the face (the individual), an agressive flag and evil equals no moral restraint using weaponry that would not even get mentioned on the napkins used at a hosting of the Geneva Convention. The motivations of both sides don't really seem to matter beyond the good versus evil borderline but even there, Finley-Day never makes it all too clear, both sides maim and kill, it's just that the Norts are more overly agressive in their conquering attempts. In war, there are no winners.

Finley-Day obiviously has an affinity for war comics, having previously conceived The VCs for 2000 AD featuring space warfare following the exploits of a battalion of armoured troops (review right here). Here, Finley-Day mostly sticks to combat on land and makes the setting an extremely hostile environment, deadly for humans without breathing apparatus and a fully covered suit. For what is basically a Lone Wolf and Cub scenario with the bio-chips standing in for Daigoro, Finley-Day is remarkably ingenious in coming up with fururistic armament and dangers for Rogue Trooper to overcome. Part of the fun is in seeing what Rogue Trooper will encounter next; from his bio-chips suffering from combat fatigue to enflated prison camps; from psychedelic gasses to a city under siege, parts of which are modelled after old earth cultures leading to stuff like Disco Boogie Troopers. The diverging storylines though always come together leading to the yellow brick road to the great traitor of Nu-Earth.

Even though it is a mammoth 400 pages long, the quest for the traitor is not concluded in this volume but will appear in Rogue Trooper Tales of Nu-Earth 02 wrapping up the complete Gerry Finley-Day stories and the Rogue Trooper's mission. His raison d'être gone, leading to a relaunch by Simon Geller, Michael Fleischer, Dave Gibbons himself etc and to various cloned versions of the original Rogue Trooper.

Tales of Nu-Earth 01 features early Dave Gibbons art - about two years before Watchmen - and it is a strong distinctive effort. His detailed, cinematic style and posed figurework lend an eerie quality to his Rogue Trooper design which makes him look menacing and bereaved at the same time; a mix between Clint Eastwood's drifter and Charles Bronson heavy brow. He is followed by Colin Wilson who is not that well known in the States having drawn the Wildstorm Sleeper prequel Point Blank written by Ed Brubaker and a Battler Britton series also for Wildstorm with another master of war writing: Garth Ennis.

The Colin Wilson presented here though features a much more detailed drawing style. His character work is a bit more fluid and cartoony than Gibbons but he works in the same cinematic style so it is a smooth transition. And since you can't have a war comic without Cam Kennedy, he regularly pops up here too. His chunky scratchy style is a good fit and again, it's early work so a bit more detailed than I'm used to seeing from him. There's even an episode where Cam Kennedy and Colin Wilson illustrate the prog together while succeeding in the fact to largely keep their own styles. Fill-in artists are Brett Ewins and Mike Doorey who both feature very heavy linework with a less precise line and a lot less attention to the weaponry and crafts which is a bit problematic after the visual pampering by Gibbons, Wilson and Kennedy.

At the end are two tales of the Rogue Trooper penned by that illustrious magus of comics: Alan Moore. I can only assume they are included for commercial value  since they are reprints of a 2000 AD annual and therefore by definition need to be about Rogue's adventures while wandering Nu-Earth, free from the traitor plotline. Both are okay efforts with Moore concentrating a bit more on character than Finley-Day who tends to write more action-oriented but Finley-Day's stories are at least the equal of what Moore is penning here.

Rogue Trooper is one of the stalwarts of the 2000 AD stable of characters and it is easy to see why. The original incarnation by Gerry Finley-Day crafts a superb action adventure tale with a heart focusing on small human drama's and inventive designs of death weaponry while still folding all the stories in a bigger whole. The striking design by Dave Gibbons perfectly encapsulates the manmade trooper's alienness and tortured soul with its stern features and eerie blue colour. Rogue Trooper Tales of Nu-Earth 01 is a classic in the field of futuristic warfare.

Rogue Trooper Tales of Nu-Earth 01 by Gerry Finley-Day, Alan Moore, Dave Gibbons, Colin Wilson and more is published by Simon & Schuster.  It is a 400 pages black and white trade paperback retailing for $ 19.99 and is available online and in finer bookstores and comic shops across the world.


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