Monday, 14 July 2014

Rogue Trooper Review (Brian Ruckley, Alberto Ponticelli)

Back when I was a teenager and read nothing but 2000AD (in between Terry Pratchett and Douglas Adams novels), Rogue Trooper was a character I couldn’t care less about. He had this iconic, cool look with his striking blue skin but he didn’t seem like a particularly complex or interesting character with a discernible goal – he just ran around a dull, rocky planet, killing stuff while his gun, helmet, and backpack talked to him (which I admit was a nifty detail). 

Well, it’s now many years later and I’ve finally read a complete Rogue Trooper arc, and I’m surprised that my initial impression of the character was spot on! 

Nu-Earth is a planet so ravaged by war, it’s atmosphere has become toxic. Enter the Genetic Infantry, troops engineered to survive and fight under its hostile conditions. Blue (what a racist nickname!) is the last survivor in his group but his comrades live on in the biochips he’s attached to his helmet, gun and backpack. After deserting and pursuing his own objectives, Blue is labelled the Rogue Trooper, on a seemingly endless mission in this vague and terrible war.

Brian Ruckley takes the right tack in this book - Rogue Trooper is essentially an ‘80s action movie with big, brainless violence and a ripped guy without a shirt firing a huge gun, and that’s how Ruckley writes it. There are no lofty themes decrying the horrors of war or complex characters - it’s pretty much shallow killing from start to finish, and that’s fine.

That said it’s not totally without soul. I love how the biochips, Gunnar, Bagman and Helm have these concerned talks about Rogue’s mental state out his earshot, like they’re looking out for their buddy even in death. There is a poignant sadness in how Rogue seems to carry the weight of his friends’ deaths as if he’s responsible which is maybe why he’s so withdrawn a character compared to the strangely lively and chatty biochips.

Alberto Ponticelli’s art isn’t on the same level as Glenn Fabry’s cover art but it’s still good. He’s not given much to work with given that Nu-Earth is mostly a barren wasteland with muted colours but Ponticelli’s work is never boring to look at. Also when Rogue goes after the soldiers out to bring him in, the battle is nicely choreographed in an easy-to-follow way.

Rogue Trooper’s not the most amazing comic you’ll read but it’s entertaining enough and it’s enjoyable seeing Rogue gunning down such two-dimensional baddies. Normally I’d critique that kind of thing but I feel it’s appropriate here as I think that’s how the character’s always been so Ruckley’s just being true to the spirit of the title.

In the mood for a comic you don’t need to think about to enjoy? Rogue Trooper’s your man and this book is a great introduction to him.

Rogue Trooper

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