Thursday, 26 June 2008

‘Rogue Trooper: The Future of War’ – Gerry Finley-Day (Rebellion Books)


Yesterday I was reading an interview that Aidan ('A Dribble of Ink') had conducted with Brian Ruckley. One of the things that Brian mentioned was that he would like see more coverage of graphic novels in SF blogs and, funnily enough, I was just finishing up on reading this collection of the first ‘Rogue Trooper’ stories so I could post something today…
Brian – I’m not sure if this was what you were after but this one’s for you anyway!

I never read a lot of 2000AD when I was a kid but such was the influence of the comic that I was still able to tell you who all the characters were that had ongoing stories. I’ve already mentioned Judge Dredd, Judge Anderson and Slaine the Beserker, Nemesis the Warlock (a personal favourite) is one for another time. This post is all about the Rogue Trooper…

In the distant future war rages between the Nort and Souther factions and one of the most heavily contested planets is Nu-Earth, a world so damaged and broken that you need a mask just to be able to breathe. That’s where the Genetic Infantrymen come in, Souther troops bio-engineered to be able to survive in these harsh conditions. Such training doesn’t come cheap so if any of them are killed in action their personalities can be stored on a bio-chip until such time as a new body can be cloned. The ‘G.I’s’ were meant to provide the decisive push in the war, until they were betrayed in the Quartz Zone massacre. Only one G.I survived along with three bio-chipped souls hitching rides on his gun, backpack and Helmet. None of them are going back to the war until they’ve found out who betrayed them and tracked them down…

Even though it’s set in the future, the ‘Rogue Trooper’ stories don’t pull any punches in depicting the horrors of war in a way that we can identify with right now. You get to see just what it means to be living in a warzone and what it does to both soldiers and civilians (although I did find myself wondering why the civilian population hung around if the war was that bad, especially in an age of space travel…) It was also cool to see what the writer came up with in order to spice up what is a war of attrition. Decapitator drones and projecting propaganda onto gas clouds are just some of the more outlandish weapons on display! The overdone ‘war is a bad thing’ messages, at the end of each episode, did get on my nerves though. If we’ve already been shown that war is bad then surely we don’t need to be told as well?
The ‘Future of War’ collection marks the beginning of the story arc where the Rogue Trooper sets out to track down the man who betrayed his comrades. This probably came across better in comic form but I still liked the way that the overall plot was gradually introduced with little snippets of information and flashbacks to the Quartz Zone massacre.

It’s not all good though. Despite the number of great ideas on show, this collection does come across as very formulaic with Rogue facing down ‘the threat of the week’ and winning through each time. The story itself is now over twenty five years old and some of the concepts involved are starting to show their age. What was cutting edge back in the day is now far too familiar to get a real buzz out of. Having said all of that though, ‘Rogue Trooper’ makes for an entertaining read and I’ll certainly be back to read the rest and see where the tale takes me.

Seven out of Ten

3 comments:

Brian Ruckley said...

I've got to admit, the 2000AD collections don't really tempt me that much, for a couple of reasons: (a) I've already read most of the stories, since I was a 2000AD nut from a very early age, and nostalgia isn't quite enough of a motivation for me to start spending money on stuff that may well be better in memory than current reality, and (b) as you hint in your review, these stories were never really designed to be collected together: they're 4 or 5 page strips that had to work on that weekly level, so I've always suspected they're liable to appear more repetitive and rhythmically predictable in these collections than they did in their original format.

But I did quite like Rogue Trooper when the stories first came out. I was quite taken with the idea of blue-skinned soldiers back then. (They were blue, weren't they?)

Brian Ruckley said...

Forgot to add: I think you are partly to blame for my renewed interest in graphic novels, anyway, because I've got a feeling seeing you talk about The Walking Dead last year was what finally persuaded me that I should try this zombie series I'd seen quite a few people saying good things about ...

dukun said...

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