Friday, March 14, 2014

Let Slip the Dogs of War

Blood Moon is a Strontium Dog collection written by John Wagner, art by Carlos and Hector Ezquerra, and lettered by Ellie De Ville. This features two stories which originally ran in the Prog in 2009 and this trade was published in 2010.

These are stories from the strange wilderness years after Johnny Alpha was killed off in the Prog in 1990. Wagner brought the character back in 1999 and started to retcon stories into Alpha's past. The title story here deals with a very young Alpha's encounter with a ruthless mutant rebel leader, William Blood Moon. Later on Johnny and a group of his bounty hunting mates receive a tip-off which sets them on the trail of the same wanted war criminal.

The sequel story The Mork Whisperer sees Alpha take on a very lucrative job for a multi-billionaire who wants to get his teenage son back from his ex-wife. It's morally dubious but it allows Johnny to repay his mutant buddies for what they went through in the hunt for Blood Moon.

They are both cracking stories with all the usual things we have come to expect from Strontium Dog. John Wagner writes this character with ease and gives us some interesting back story for Alpha, as well as providing some great moments for Middenface McNulty and the rest of the Doghouse crew. Meanwhile the father and son team of Carlos and Hector Ezquerra produce gorgeous artwork. I think this was during the time when Carlos was going through some intense medical issues and his son was helping out with the colouring. I have heard some people say that the colours are a bit too vibrant and garish on these stories but they look pretty well perfect to me.

Wagner has said that he regretted introducing the Birdie lie detector device in early Judge Dredd stories because it limited the potential drama of interrogation scenes in future stories. I wonder if he feels the same way about Johnny Alpha's time bomb which gets used in both of these stories. Each time McNulty or one of the others suggest he can fix a situation by travelling back in time, Alpha has to explain how difficult it is to use without ending up floating in the vacuum of space once whatever planet they are on has moved on. He gave the same disclaimer in the Dogs of War story from the most recent issues of the Prog. Not that it stops him using it, and it does provide a convenient get out clause when Alpha is in a tight spot.

Anyway this is a lovely trade collection of two fine Strontium Dog stories by the original creators. The Progs covers are reproduced at the back of the book and look pretty good but mainly serve to remind us that if it's not by Ezquerra then it's not really Johnny Alpha. If you took my advice about the Roses of Berlin book and saved your tenner then you could do a lot worse than heading over to the 2000AD store and buying a copy of this instead.

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