Graphic Novel Reviews


Robo-Hunter: Verdus

(2004 ed (1982)) John Wagner & Ian Gibson, Rebellion, 10.99/US$11.95, trd pbk, 127 pp, ISBN 1-904-26522-7

 

This is a tale from the beginnings of 2000AD, 1978 about a year into the history of a comic that was to virtually set the annual standard most years for British SF in this medium. It was first collected in graphic novel form in 1982 but subsequent reprints have been rare and soon snapped up. For completeness sake it is perhaps worth noting that the 1982 edition was in fact split accross a two-part assemblage of Robo-Hunter tales. This two-parter also contained and extra Judge Dredd, but robot related, tale. It was also published full size. On the other hand the 2004 Rebellion edition is produced in the new slightly reduced format. It has the Verdus tale complete within the single volume and there are also a five of the original 1978/9 covers reproduced from 2000AD.

As for the protagonist, Sam Slade, 'that's s-l-a-y-e-d to you!', is one of those fearless technicians (well gunmen) whom you call when you normally friendly droid, robot and AI runs amok. Yes, Sam Slade is a Bladerunner (but a conceived few years before the film).

When a huge multi-planetary corporation sends an advance robot to build other robots on the uninhabited planet of Verdus so as to make it fit for colonization, they thought they were on to a winner. However when the colonists were sent and never heard from again, as did subsequent crack troops, something was clearly wrong. They needed the best robo-hunter out even if he came in the guise of an old Marlowe-type private operative, 'Sam Slade, that's s-l-a-y-e-d to you!' And so off Slade blasts to Verdus.

As it happened the FTL drive en route had the by-product of making him young again while the ship's pilot became a baby - who now smokes a cigar and tots a gun even if wearing nappies. On arriving on Verdus their initial encounter with the robots does not go well as the droids do not accept that Slade and the pilot are human, and so the confrontation begins.

From 2000AD's beginnings, this is a black and white graphic novel, but it is the SF, the story and the blend of action and humour that will sustain you. If you are from overseas, or simply cannot be bothered to subscribe to the weekly 2000AD or its slightly more adult monthly Judge Dredd: Megazine (which is not restricted to Dredd tales) and wish to get a flavour of the 2000 universe, then the various graphic novels are the most convenient way. In addition to this Robo-Hunter adventure, Judge Dredd, Halo Jones, Skizz, and DR & Quinch tales are all recommended. Meanwhile those of a fantasy, sword and sorcery, bent will like Slaine. Your specialist SF bookshop really should have these.

Jonathan Cowie


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