01/04/2012. Contributed by Eamonn Murphy
pub: Rebellion Publishing/HarperCollins. 144 page small graphic novel. Price: GBP14.99 (UK). ISBN: 978-1-90799-298-8.
check out website: www.rebellion.co.uk
Gene the Hackman is back, tougher and tough, in a graphic story collection from writer Dan Abnett and artist Richard Elson. Originally featured in ‘2000AD’ progs 1650-1661 and 1715-1725, this volume contains two adventures, ‘Call Of The Wild’ and ‘His Master’s Voice’. Both titles are a nice example of that sly humour that is one of the best features of the source comic.
The story follows on from ‘Kingdom: Promised Land’ but can be read independently. Gene the Hackman is an Aux, short for Auxiliary Combatant Resource. These are genetically engineered dog soldiers grown by humans to fight against Them, giant insects whose provenance is not given. The name obviously harks back to the giant ants in the classic 1950s monster movie.
Gene used to patrol Anarchticy (Antarctica) with his pack. Having pretty much lost the war against Them, humans had decided to hide, leaving the dog soldiers to fight it out. His pack gone, Gene crossed the land bridge to Auxtralia and en route, rescued a human girl named Leezee Sower. ’Call Of The Wild’ begins with them entering Sydney where they hitch up with the Wild, a band of Aux led by a very smart puppy called Rex Horizon who has a human in a space suit for a pet. Them seem to be drawn by something Leezee Sower carries and are attacking in force. Rex figures the easiest solution is to get rid of Leezee but Gene has other ideas. To say more would be to spoil the fun but it’s a well crafted story with gorgeous art.
In ‘His Master’s Voice’, there are useful flashback sequences which tell us more about the history of the conflict with Them and the origins of the dog soldiers. The cast includes lesser mongrel Aux characters such as J.S. Bark, Deborah Cur and Clawed Raines. There is a rationale for the names, namely that the man in charge of the Aux project was a big fan of old Hollywood movies. He probably named Them as well.
‘Call Of The Wild’ is obviously a reference to the famous doggy novel by Jack London. ‘His Master’s Voice’ is a reference to a record label from a bygone age which featured a dog with its ear cocked to an old fashioned horn speaker on a record deck. The humour in ‘2000AD’ strips is always welcome but the violence is sometimes a bit extreme. Oddly, it doesn’t matter here because Gene usually hacks at horrible giant insects so it’s kind of unreal.
One downside of the anthology format of British comics is that if you don’t like many of the strips you are unlikely to fork out several pounds for the comic, whereas if you buy an issue of ‘Thor’ or ‘Spider-Man’ you just get what you wanted, namely Thor or Spider-Man. With these bumper collections you just have to buy the strip you like. Unfortunately, to find out which ones you will like you have to buy the comic which means you will already have them, though not so tidily together.
At £14.99, printed on good quality paper with 130 pages of gorgeous artwork and a few extra illustrations thrown in this is good value or ‘gooder and good’, as Gene the Hackman might say.
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Stephen Hunt's novels - USA