Rogue Trooper Review
“Nu-Earth. A dead planet. They killed it, but they still fight over its corpse.”
Rogue Trooper is a series recreated by noted author Brian Buckley and artist Alberto Ponticelli and released by IDW Publishing and 2000 AD, the makers of the always fantastic Judge Dredd. In this story set on Nu-earth, a planet ravaged by a galaxy wide war, its atmosphere poisoned by chemical weapons we meet Rogue a G.I. (Genetically Engineered Infantryman) created to fight in the conditions on the planet, and the only one remaining of his brothers in arms. Rogue is on a quest to find the traitor that cost his men their lives even if it means being labelled a deserter.
After reading through the Rogue Trooper graphic novel, there is really only one thing I can say: this comic is awesome from front to back and it’s probably one of the most fantastic books I have ever read.
To start, the artwork is absolutely stunning and really captures your eye. The heavy black lines work wonders for giving it the bleak eerie feel of a desolate dead planet, and add to the chiseled look of Rogue himself. One of the best points to the art was the simple things which go a long way in this case. We have all read comics and the tried and true descriptors of punches and explosions like ‘Thwak!’, ‘Kaboom!’ and so on, but in Rogue Trooper the little things like this are so well done by the artists that they just pop off the page and really emphasize the impact of what is happening in the panel. Ponticelli’s art style is without a doubt one of the best in comic books, and new readers will become fans of his as he splashes the pages with a grim and gritty style that lends very well to the story.
Rogue Trooper is a great character himself and is surrounded by characters that you want to know more about. Rogue seems a little like Clint Eastwood meets Master Chief from Halo, minus the armor of course. He’s a no nonsense type of character that is focused on his mission and will do what it takes to complete it. Called Blue originally by his squad mates that are currently residing in bio chips that are inserted into the troopers so that their consciousness can be retained if they die (as long as the chip is removed within sixty seconds), the bio chips have been inserted into his kit, where one chip known as Gunnar is living inside his rifle, which gives Rogue options as far as having his gun think for itself and the ability to leave the gun on its own and have it work without Rogue. Another chip has been inserted into his helmet, known as Helm which gives Rogue a Cortana-like ride along which can give him readouts and information on the battlefield and help him with readings and being able to change his optics within his visor. Lastly there is Bagman who is another bio chip that is in his pack and can work autonomously without Rogue to monitor his health and can give him extras like smoke screen, supplies management, and acts almost like a portable medic, keeping an eye on his health. It is the addition of these three that add humour and levity to the action.
We spend the story with these four characters as they traverse the barren wastes of Nu-earth; they are all engaging and interesting in their own way and the writers do wonders to ensure they all have their own personalities, which sets each apart. This could have been extremely confusing being that they are all essentially contained within the same character space, and three of them (the biochips) lack bodies and are merely voices coming from Rogues kit, but in this case the artists do a fantastic job making sure that there is no confusion between the characters and the interaction.
The overall story is not a new one, nor is it even a fresh take on Rogue Trooper. It’s the fact that it’s using a simple storyline and not something overly elaborate to keep the focus on Rogue and by turning him into the focal point of the story will certainly help draw in new fans of the character and create a renewed audience. It’s a gritty science fiction mixed with a great war story about a deserter (Rogue) on a path of vengeance looking for answers as to how his brothers fell in battle and who betrayed them. As a writer, Buckley has a great ear for tone and how to pace the overall story of Rogue Trooper. There is enough backstory for new readers to fully enjoy the journey that you are taking, but it’s not dominated by it as it pushes the main story forward keeping, the tension high for the main characters instead of bogging down going back and looking at the origins of the Genetic Infantrymen, things that could be saved for a later issue instead of being tackled immediately. The main antagonists that Rogue is chasing remain veiled which gives us a greater evil to discover along the way in later issues. It’s this kind of writing that gives us enough to be excited for more and at the same enjoy what we just traversed. Not only that, but the tone is kept grim and gritty throughout and there are no detours that feel out of place with where the character is in his journey for vengeance. There are a lot of parallels that can be drawn to popular films and video games, which gives so much more incentive to love this material.
While they are not re-inventing the wheel by trekking down a well trodden road with the material, Buckley and Ponticelli have perfected the wheel, elevating the material of Rogue Trooper beyond what could have delved deep into cliché territory, and taken it to one of the most entertaining rides going. I can’t express how much I recommend this book, it’s a fantastic read from front cover to the back, and I can’t wait to see where the series goes from here. IDW and 2000 AD have a smash hit on their hands.