Still very much indebted to the war comics that 2000 AD grew out of – of which creator Gerry Finley-Day was an old hand – Rogue Trooper remains very much a Boy’s Own creation for the first third of Tales Of Nu-Earth which starts with Prog 410 in 1985, as he wanders through various zones of a whole new world looking for the secret to restore his dead comrades – their personalities retained in biochips in his gun, helmet and backpack – to the blue bodies of a Genetic Infantryman.
One part Commando (the continued use of “gook” to refer to the Asian contingent of the Nort army will raise hackles to those not desensitised by cartoon Desert Rats barking “eat grenade, Fritz!”), and one part Tales Of Suspense as each zone throws up a new breed of alien killers, from insect-men to scuttling robot crabs. Circa Prog 495, Finley-Day and artist Jose Ortiz set up a new arc that defines the final age of the original Rogue, before being replaced by the capable Simon Geller and future fan favourite artist Steve Dillon (Preacher, Punisher MAX) who usher it to a war-weary conclusion in 1989.
Dillon’s square-jawed art style a perfect match for the character who becomes increasingly withdrawn, tortured and morally inscrutable, with the burden of being out POV falling to the chatty biochips. It’s no surprise that he would die not so long after and despite a few more stories that followed like a death rattle, this arc feels very much like the final chapter for the character.
Finley-Day’s back-up one-shots from various issues of the 2000 AD Sci-Fi Special and the 2000 AD annual are fun enough, but it’s the two Choose Your Own Adventure-style effort from Slaine creator Pat Mills (first published in the shortlived Diceman anthology), a bittersweet offering from Peter Milligan (Hellblazer, X-Statix) and a rare Venus Bluegenes strip from comic-book superstar Grant Morrison that will turn fans blue in the face.