This piece is inspired by Professor Alan from the Relatively Geeky Podcasting network and his show the Quarter Bin Podcast. I am a big fan of mining the cheapo bins for treasure, but most of the searching I do is in dollar bins. A couple of weeks ago I was visiting family in Burlington Vermont and was able to take time to visit the only store in New England with a real honest and true quarter bin, that I am aware of, Earth Prime Comics. I did not leave with very much on this visit but I did buy a copy of Rogue Trooper Classics #5 from IDW.
Rogue Trooper is a comic that first appeared in 2000 A.D. and was created by Gerry Finley-Day and Dave Gibbons. He is a genetically engineered soldier created to fight in a civil war on Nu-Earth. Rogue Trooper’s unit was betrayed from within and everyone was killed except Rogue and the traitor. Rogue Trooper saved his buddies, Gunner, Helm, and Bag-man, bio-chips and installed them in, you guessed it, his gun, helmet, and backpack. Now Rogue Trooper wanders the wastelands of Nu-Earth searching for the traitor, and aiding the Southers who created him in their struggle against the Norts.
Rogue Trooper has mostly appeared in a serialized strip in 2000 A.D. and various Judge Dredd comics. IDW published a new story in a four-issue series back in 2014 as well as a series of reprints in Rogue Trooper Classics. This particular issue contains two full strips and a third that is part one of the story that, I assume, is continued in the next issue.
The Petrified Forest
2000 A.D. Credit card
Script Robot – Gerry Finley-Day
Art Robot – Mike Dorey
Lettering Robot – Bill Nuttall
The story begins on a Nort satellite orbiting Nu-Earth. A heavyset man sits with a group of men at a large round table are discussing their troubles with Rogue Trooper. The problem, as it is put so callously, is not what Rogue Trooper does to the Nort forces, but how he inspires the Southers. He makes the Southers believe they can win this never-ending war. The fat man challenges the group to come up with a way to stop Rogue Trooper. Satellites are launched to sweep the surface of the planet searching for their target.
Meanwhile down on the planet, Rogue Trooper wanders, searching for the man who betrayed his unit. He happens to be in the petrified forest and notes that all life is gone due to the chem-strikes. All that remains are brittle dead trees. A shot from high up a tree rings out and Rogue Trooper dives to dodge the bullet. He shoots the sniper out of the tree and cuts his oxygen tubes. The atmosphere of Nu-Earth is poisonous to humans so they must wear special containment suits with gas masks tied to oxygen pumps in order to survive.
The attack on the snipers does not go unnoticed by the men back on the satellite. They decide instead of sacrificing good Nort men they will send down a group of ape-men that were meant to serve as soldiers in the Nort army but are too undisciplined. As Rogue Trooper and his buddy Gunner (the gun) admire their handwork a group of Nort foot soldiers gets the drop on them. With the aid of gunner and an electro-flare from bagman (his backpack), Rogue Trooper is able to take out the whole squad with a few shots.
Rogue Trooper finds a bombed out farm in the forest and decides to camp for the night. Gunner is put on watch and Helm (his helmet) is put on pillow duty. Meanwhile, the Nort ape-men make planetfall. Without too much trouble they sneak up on Rogue Trooper’s camp and take Bagman and Gunner. Rogue Trooper wakes up and fights back with his only weapon, Helm. He gets away from the ape-men and leads them on a chase into the petrified forest. Eventually, the ape-men surround him.
The ape-men do not attack all at once so Rogue Trooper tries to start a fight with the biggest looking ape who he believes must be the leader. The ape attacks Rogue Trooper who dodges several of the advances. As he is backed up to a tree he realizes he is in the same spot he killed the Nort snipers earlier and the oxygen tubes are still hanging from the branches. He fashions the tube into a bit of a noose and chokes out the ape-man. The other ape-men start howling, seemingly a show of respect for Rogue Trooper defeating their leader.
The ape-men return Gunner and Bag-man. Back in his possession Rogue Trooper activates the universal translator in Bag-man so he can understand the ape-men. Similar to Rogue trooper the apes tell him the story of how they were genetically modified to fight but were treated badly by the Norts. Soon the shuttles that dropped the ape-men off on the planet return to pick them up. When the Norts see that the apes are not returning they gas the petrified forest. Since the Rogue Trooper is impervious to chemical attacks he is able to stand and fight while the ape-men collapse to the ground.
Rogue Trooper shoots one of the troop carrier ships and it crashes into the other ship. The men watching from the satellite monitor the situation but think the pilots have just crashed into each other and do not realize the ape-men have rebelled and that Rogue Trooper still lives. While Rogue trooper tries to help the poisoned ape-men the leader of the group comes too and grabs Gunner from Rogue. When he tries to fire on Rogue Trooper but the gun jams and the ape turns it around to inspect it. A shot rings out and the ape leader is dead, shot in the face by Gunner who doesn’t just let anybody pull his trigger.
The story ends with Rogue Trooper directing the ape-men to another part of the forest so that when more Nort landing parties arrive they do not take them back or worse. He then runs out of the petrified forest into the open area making sure the satellites pick him on their cameras and the Nort leaders know he is still alive.
War of Nerves
2000 A.D. credit card
Script Robot – G. Finley-Day
Art Robot – Colin Wilson
Letter Robot – Tony Jacob
This story is a brief one chapter story that gives the reader an idea what the civil war on Nu-Earth is like. A group of Souther soldiers is trapped in a series of foxholes, charged with defending their position. They have been apparently been doing it for weeks. They are being bombarded with digital propaganda messages in the sky by the Nort army. Some of the messages are “Hullo, Soon it will be goodbye” and “Tonight you die Johnny”. The men are worn out and scared. One soldier who is sick of the waiting rushes out of the fox-hole and into the battlefield. He is almost immediately killed by incoming mortar fire.
The surviving men decide that it is too much and abandon their post. When they rush off they run into Rogue Trooper who, to put it mildly, is disappointed in this squad. Rogue Trooper chastises the squad and leads them against the Nort mortar encampment. They breach the mortar silo and defeat the Nort soldiers inside. Next, we see Nort reinforcements arrive at the silo only to trigger a boobie trap. A digital message appears above the silo telling the Nort soldiers to watch this space when a bomb goes off destroying the whole facility.
Bagman Blues – Part I
2000 A.D. Credit Card
Script Robot – Gerry Finley-Day
Art Robot – Brett Ewins
Lettering Robot – Bill Nutall
Rogue Trooper is walking through the foggy ruins of a small town on Nu-Earth. The town is littered with bodies indicating a recent battle. As Rogue Trooper explores he notices one of the seemingly dead men get up. The two fire on each other and Rogue Trooper hits and kills the man in the gas mask. The Nort soldier manages to get one shot off and hits Bag-man who starts emitting a high pitched wail. Gunner tells Bag-man to shut up but it doesn’t work. Rogue Trooper removes the bio-chip and tries to repair it.
The loud siren emitted from the damaged chip has attracted other Nort soldiers and Rogue Trooper and Gunner are forced to defend themselves before they can finish Bag-man’s repairs. Rogue Trooper defends himself against incoming forces while the “wounded” Bag-man slowly empties his contents on the ground taking inventory, all the while singing nursery rhymes. That is where this chapter ends.
I’ve been a big fan of Judge Dredd going way back to my youth. I do not remember how I discovered him but I certainly have enjoyed the apocalyptic tales of justice over the years. Back in the early 00’s several Judge Dredd, Strontium Dog, and Rogue Trooper collections were published. Since I liked Dredd so much I thought it might be fun to look at some other 2000 A.D. characters. I liked both new series but I really got into Rogue Trooper.
The grim anti-war message combined with the stoic soldier, Rogue Trooper, and his simplistically named companions Gunner, Helm, and Bag-man all work together to make a great science fiction story. The oddly colored wasteland of Nu-Earth serves as a great backdrop for the blue-skinned hero searching for the man who betrayed him years prior. It is like a futuristic version of Stephen King’s Gunslinger chasing the Man in Black across the desert. The soldiers wearing full body containment suits and gas masks and bombed out locations are all reminiscent of Ralph Bakshi’s Wizards.
The plots were pretty formulaic but the writing and art are really gripping. Writing a comic about a soldier talking to himself page after page has got to be challenging but guys like Gerry Finley-Day really were able to put together some pretty good stories.
At this point, I must ask myself if I think this comic was worth the quarter I paid for it and my answer is that is certainly was. Petrified Forest with the ape-men was fun, and who doesn’t love a story with gorilla soldiers? The War of Nerves had a pretty standard never give up message, but the most interesting part was the digital propaganda machine that wrote demoralizing messages in the sky for the enemy. Brett Ewins art in the final chapter was the best in the book, nice and clean with sharp lines. The story itself was short but the damaged Bag-man singing nursery rhymes is a nice call out to HAL singing “Daisy, Daisy” while he is powered down at the end of Stanley Kubrick’s “2001”. Interesting note, “Daisy, Daisy” is the first song ever performed by a computer in 1962.
Finally, I have to thank Professor Alan for his inspiration to write about a real gem of a comic that I picked up for only a quarter!