Graphic Novel Reviews

Strontium Dog
The Life and Death of Johnny Alpha – Dogs of War

(2015) John Wagner and Carlos Ezquerra, 2000AD, £14.99, trdpbk, ???pp, ISBN 978-1-781-08336-9


This is the second part (or rather chapters 3 and 4) of The Life and Death of Johnny Alpha that follows on from The Life and Death of Johnny Alpha – The Project (a volume containing chapters 1 and 2) and so do not read more of this review unless you have read that first. SPOILER ALERT.

Having been captured by Sir Pelham, mutant bounty hunter Johnny Alpha has discovered that Pelham and the government have been mixing drugs into the mutants' food that makes them sterile. The aim was to wipe out the mutants 'humanely' without having to fire a shot.

Johnny Alpha seems certain to be executed but is saved by the gaseous, spirit creature within him that he 'acquired' when quasi dead on an alien world (again see The Life and Death of Johnny Alpha – The Project ). He and a couple of his comrades escape taking Sir Pelham with them. One thing leads to another and they get back to the mutant community who are understandably livid at the covert sterilisation they have been subjected to, and so once again they take up arms against the norms. It is war… Meanwhile Johnny Alpha has that alien within with which to deal.

Again, this is not the best place to start and readers are strongly urged to turn to the volume containing the first two chapters, The Life and Death of Johnny Alpha – The Project . However with this volume, Dogs of War matters are satisfactorily continued, though it does kind of have a mid-trilogy feel to it with more battle and action and less plot progression. However we have the next volume (two chapters) to come.

During the course of event there are references to, and a page spent on, the USA and its President's take on the events in Britain. This is of note to die-hard 2000AD aficionado as again it reveals the confusion of the 2000AD timelines – 2000AD being the weekly comic that features Strontium Dog. The various Judge Dredd crossovers have all depicted Johnny Alpha and the Strontium Dogs as coming from a time that was in Judge Dredd's own future, thought the original Strontium Dog strip in Starlord (the sister comic to the early 2000AD with which it merged within a couple of years) clearly has the Strontium Dog strip set in the near future and before the Dredd future. This is also suggested in this strip as The Life and Death of Johnny Alpha – Dogs of War features an extant USA and President (both of which in the Dredd strip ceased to exist at the very beginning of Dredd's time).  2000AD needs to address this conflict, and there is at least one easy way to do this that would explain everything that has happened. However such editorial housekeeping has not (yet?) happened and such procrastination is getting a little irritating.

Finally, a word needs to be said on this strip's relevance to the real world. When the Strontium Dog strip first came out, the underlying message was one that related to racial tolerance in a multicultural society. However in the 2010s, this strip speaks in a way that very much has relevance to population persecution and religious ethnic cleansing currently taking place in the Middle East and affecting Europe. Science Fiction with socio-political relevance: great stuff!

Jonathan Cowie

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