COMIC REVIEW: 2000 AD's The War Machine
This Ain't Your Daddy's Rogue Trooper...
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War is hell. That moral message best summarizes The War Machine, 2000 AD's latest sci-fi story collection for North American readers. A reboot of the classic 2000 AD character Rogue Trooper that originated in the early '80s (read my review of Rogue Trooper: Tales of Nu-Earth 01 HERE), The War Machine was written by Rouge Trooper co-founder Dave Gibbons in the way he always wanted the story to be told. The result is a raw and gritty re-imagining of the character.
There are many similarities between War Machine and Rogue Trooper. The most obvious is the central character - now named "Friday" - being a bio-engineered, blue-skinned Genetic Infantryman (G.I.). Like Rogue Trooper, these G.I.s are supersoldiers: built to survive the harshest environments and bred for combat. Fight hard. Die well. Gibbons hammers that particular message in loud and clear, stripping away most of the free thinking, sometimes humerous personality of Rogue Trooper to create a stone-cold killing machine in Friday. As a hardcore sci-fi fan, the new approach is welcome, especially in the first half The War Machine story. Deployed to a hostile planet, Friday and his "brothers" must fight off waves of enemy combatants - from multi-legged mechanized war machines to crude, but powerful hulking genetic warriors - to capture and hold Hill Three Nine Two. The action here is violent and relentless - Gibbons' minimalistic writing approach - like a war chant - pairing up well with Will Simpsons' potent and visceral artwork. Fight hard. Die well. With his fellow G.I.s slowly dying around him and reinforcements nowhere to be found, Friday inadvertently stumbles upon some shocking news: that him and his men have been betrayed. Without giving too much away, the story takes a sudden turn towards revenge, climaxing with a satisfying "oh wow" conclusion that leaves you question the meaning - and consequences - of war. War is hell... and oh so much more.
As a one-off story, The War Machine works extremely well in delivering a savage tale of future war from a soldier's perspective. It packs loads of explosive action with a cool twist ending. Alas, The War Machine is a reboot and not a self-contained story. War Machine was created to be a continuing series as evident by the inclusion of two additional short stories: Bio Death and The Arena of Long Knives. While neither "bonus" story is bad, War Machine's cold central character and lack of levity considerably dulls my investment in War Machine as an ongoing story. The War Machine may pack a powerful punch, but I do miss the playful banter between Rogue Trooper and his three bio-chipped comrades (Friday's equipment is just that, gear devoid of personality).
As far as reboots go, The War Machine takes Rogue Trooper into the 21st century with guns a blazin'. War is serious business... perhaps a little too much so.
The War Machine (96 pages) is priced at list price of $17.99 and available now at all major U.S. bookstores.
Review By Jeff Saylor
Art and Review Sample Courtesy of 2000 AD