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Robo-Hunter: The Droid Files Volume 02 by John Wagner, Alan Grant and Ian Gibson

1/8/2010. Contributed by Eamonn Murphy

Buy Robo-Hunter: The Droid Files Volume 02 in the USA - or Buy Robo-Hunter: The Droid Files Volume 02 in the UK

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pub: Rebellion/2000AD. 400 page softcover graphic novel. Price: 13.99 (UK). ISBN: 978-1-906735-43-2.

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I must admit I approached this great big thick book with a heavy sigh for, though I quite enjoyed Volume 01, it was all a bit samey and several hundred pages of more sameness did not appeal much. However, it turned out all right. One criticism I made of Volume 01 was that John Wagner's stories were a bit too long, Alan Grant's worked better because he kept them short. For most of this book, those two old pros co-scripted every story and the results are better. They probably had a good laugh doing it. The art is still by Ian Gibson and is still brilliant: detailed, stylish and beautifully suited to the comedy scripts.

'Football Crazy' is timely now because it's about the World Cup being held here in Brit-Cit. The teams are robots but someone is sabotaging the English players and they keep losing. Sam Slade is hired to investigate and finds the answer, naturally. But who will find out what happened to our non-robotic team in 2010?

In 'Play It Again Sam', Iron Aggie, the robot Prime-Minister of Brit-Cit, declares that everyone must sing all the time or be fined or imprisoned. The singing drives Sam mad but Grant and Warner have fun with the words and the tunes are helpfully named in the captions. Iron Aggie hires Robo-Hunter to investigate the Human League, a rebel group who are destroying robots because they have taken over all the jobs and made humans useless. All this is very eighties but knowledge of the references is not essential to enjoyment.

Sam Slade is slain in 'The Slaying Of Sam Slade' by a horde of Teeny-Meks. Controlled by an evil mastermind, they stole the crown jewels and killed Sam to stop him investigating. Dead, he is refused entry to heaven because the angels declare that there is still a copy of him alive. He is sent to find out how, for his ghost must roam the Earth until the matter is sorted. It turns out that he was cloned in the past without his knowledge and that the rebellious doppelganger, named Sam Scumm, is in jail. This was another good laugh with lots of gags. I liked Adolph Hitler in the waiting room at the Pearly Gates doing his fifteenth appeal for clemency. His 'lawyer' tells him, 'You should have stuck to house painting, Adolph. We never have any trouble with house painters.' Ian Gibson's visuals for these scenes were imaginative and original.

Sam retires to Tahiti with the reward money for recovering the crown jewels and proceeds to get old and fat for the next fifty years in 'Sam's Last Case'. His idiot assistant, Hoagy, and his loyal robo-stogie, Carlos Sanchez, cannot bear this so they kidnap and take him to the island of Doctor Droid for one last case. Sam is not pleased. He is even less pleased when in 'Farewell My Billions', Hoagy and the robo-stogie gamble away his billions to make him work again. This got surreal at times but was still fun. It ends with Sam, now an old man, having to resume his career.

Unfortunately, the Wagner and Grant run ends here, too. The rest of the book is scripted by Peter Hogan and drawn by Rian Hughes. Sam is inexplicably young again but I could put up with that. The art is inexplicably awful and I couldn't put up with that. A six year-old could draw better. The last quarter of the book was made unreadable for me by this time so I didn't read it. However, the first three quarters, featuring the wit of Wagner and Grant and the beautiful, well-crafted and frequently amusing drawings of Ian Gibson are highly recommended and well worth the price of the book. You have to be in the right kind of mood to enjoy this nonsense and if you're not, you can give it to the kids, who will love it. There is no material unsuitable for children.

Eamonn Murphy

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