01/11/2009. Contributed by Geoff Willmetts
pub: 2000AD/Rebellion. 196 page graphic novel. Price: £13.99 (UK). ISBN: 978-1-905437-78-8.
check out website: www.2000adonline.com
If you were taken by my review of the latest collected works of 'Strontium Dog' a couple months ago, you might want to track down the earlier volumes. I have to confess to getting a little confused as to which of the series came first looking at the previous volumes listed at the back of this book, especially as the 'Strontium Dog: Agency Files' are the only ones with a serial number. Strontium Dog: The Kreeler Conspiracy' is the start of the second series but isn't a bad place to start because it introduces Johnny Alpha, explains his purpose and his background. Actually, a lot about his background. A complete antithesis of his father, Nelson Kreelman, a former Earth President who exterminated over two hundred thousand mutant humans before he was imprisoned and if freed, determined to kill more.
While returning with a couple of felon mutants, Johnny Alpha gets caught up in his spaceship liner being taken over for its alien navigator to solve the code to free his father. Johnny and a small group escape in a pod and when they arrive on the prison planet, he sets off to stop them.
'The Kreeler Conspiracy' is a great introduction to not only Johnny Alpha but the universe he lives in. You don't even get to Earth at this point not meet his Viking partner, that happens much later. If anything, Johnny is carrying far too much technology. Granted if you lived the life of a bounty hunter, you'd want as much edge as you can get but it does become a bit ridiculous when he gets caught stripped of it. Anyway, it's a great start.
The second story, 'Roadhouse', is an usual turn in the book with no explanation as to why it's in black and white. Actually, that's not totally true in case you think you the pages went through a mishap at the printers as there the sound effects on some pages have some colour attached to them.
While rounding up some prisoners on an avante garde colony world, Johnny Alpha and Wulf Sternhammer in pursuit come across a road diner which has a portal trap sending them off into different deadly environments which they have to unravel to sort out what is going. In many respects, it's a shame that it isn't in colour because the scene changes would have made a wonderful use of it.
The final story in this collection is ''The Tax Dodge' with James Norton sharing art duties with regular Carlos Ezquerra this time. Even Johnny Alpha is not immune to being pursued for the taxman, for over two million creds no less. As he's barred from Earth, Johnny sees no reason why he should pay and he and Wulf leave the taxman to be beaten up on the Doghouse space station while they take the first bounty out of there. This takes them to Hubworld where after capturing the felon, they spot the Unrighteous Brothers which are worth a lot more. The taxman catches up with them, delaying them capturing the Brothers who steal a talking bird and go to Gnob where the population can take offence at the least thing. Despite escaping the taxman's clutches, he arrives and handcuffs himself to Johnny and swallows the key. He also gets first hand experience of dogging (sic) a bounty hunter's job.
One of the great strengths of 'Strontium Dog' is the blend of dark comedy with its more violent aspects and 'The Tax Dodge', written as they all are by John Wagner, is a classic. How many of you out there wouldn't like to do something to the taxman at some point in your lives?
If you want to get warmed up into the 'Strontium Dog' reality, this one is a great place to start and its understandable why so many people are fans of Johnny Alpha.
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Stephen Hunt's novels - USA