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Strontium Dog: Search/Destroy Agency Files 02 by John Wager, Alan Grant, Gary Rice. Carlos Ezquerra and Steve Kyte

01/03/2010. Contributed by Geoff Willmetts

Buy Strontium Dog: Search/Destroy Agency Files 02 in the USA - or Buy Strontium Dog: Search/Destroy Agency Files 02 in the UK

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pub: Rebellion/2000AD. 288 page softcover graphic novel. Price: 13.99 (UK). ISBN: 978-1-905437-29-0).

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Here we are again with more tales of bounty hunter Johnny Alpha starting in his formative years in 'Portrait Of A Mutant'. Literally this time as we see his childhood and the Mutant Wars on Earth where prejudice against mutants led to wholesale genocide by his father that makes that Hitler chap look like an amateur in comparison. In a later story, 'Outlaw' members of Johnny's team turn up and side with him when he and Wulf are framed by the Stix Brothers under the orders of his disguised father, Nelson Bunker Kreelman, who takes over the Doghouse, the Strontium Dogs satellite headquarters. This is an incredibly long 22-part story but keeps moving through different locations and people and totally engrossing.

You also need to pay attention to the end titles as there are so many pun titles and character names - you've got to love the name Kid-Knee - to either make your groan or cheer in delight at Alan Grant's writing. This volume is also the first time that Carlos Ezquerra starts having his Christian name used in the credits by the order of the mighty Tharg -pleased with his services in this story, 'The Moses Incident', even if it only starts with part two. This story is of particular interest because after the death of a boy eager to see him and Wulf in action by a wild shot from the felon. Johnny loses it with guilt and take the boy's body to a mutant who can restore life only to see the consequences of this effect. This is also a strong reminder that although Johnny Alpha is an efficient bounty hunter he also has heart and feels guilt. A strong contrast to a certain judge in Mega-City.

The Gronks feature in the aptly titled 'The Gronk Affair' where they are used as a means to get Johnny and Wulf to their home planet for revenge. Not their revenge I should hasten to add. The Gronks are a beautiful creation and are a brilliantly realised timid alien society who could die of shock from bursting a bag. Luckily, the Gronk who occasionally accompanies the pair of them is slightly more robust but only just.

If you're not totally hooked after reading the first volume, then you will be a firm fan after this one. Granted it is violent but there's a lot of humour and heart as well. The reality of 'Strontium Dog' is intense and nasty but while there is someone like Johnny Alpha out there you coming away thinking that there is some hope...even there. Just avoid being on his wanted list.

GF Willmetts

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