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by ModernPanther on February 28, 2018

Writer: John Wagner; Lauren Beukes; Dale Halvorsen
Artist: Carlos Ezquerra
Letterer: Simon Bowland
Publisher: Rebellion

Strontium Dog: Repo Men, collects three of the adventures of mutant bounty hunter Johnny Alpha, which originally appeared in the pages of anthology comic 2000AD.


Originally set in a future Britain where a population of mutants is forced to live in ghettos, and where a career as a Search and Destroy Agent, or Strontium Dog, is the only way out, Strontium Dog stories have been a mainstay of 2000AD since 1978, appearing before then in short-lived sister publication Starlord. This is a story where mutants might not have superpowers that help them save the day, but are a lot more likely to possess abnormalities which mark them as different and unacceptable to “norm” society. Strontium Dog has served as an allegory for racial division and discrimination since its inception.


Johnny Alpha, the heroic but troubled main character, was controversially killed off in 1990 whilst battling against the attempted genocide of the mutant people. Equally controversially, the character was returned to life in 1999. But the character who returned, and who appears in these stories, is subtly different from the man who came before.


With the Search and Destroy Agency all but destroyed in previous stories, Johnny Alpha and his mismatched gang of friends and colleagues, are forced to take on different jobs just to get by. The Stix Fix sees Johnny blackmailed into working for the despotic NKD, a stand in for North Korea, when a member of their ruling family is kidnapped. Repo Men sees Johnny reintroduced to some much loved Strontium Dog characters as a repossession job becomes an elaborate heist and a complex plan is put together to pull off the impossible. In the short Judas Strain, Johnny works alongside long term rival and love interest, the vampiric Durham Red.


The stories are all larger than life, taking the gang across the galaxy to a whole host of interesting alien worlds. One of the joys of Strontium Dog is that the action was never restricted to one particular place or time, with space travel and time travel established elements of the continuity. Previous stories have seen Alpha travel back in time to arrest Hitler, or battle alongside Vikings. The action in repo Men jets around space, taking in some weird and wonderful locations.


The ensemble cast, some of whom will be familiar and some not, each have their own individual voice. Watching these big personalities bounce off each other as the gang quarrel like old friends is a real joy. There’s also a wonderful subtlety to the writing, as details are hinted at in dialogue rather than signposted for the reader. We discover, for example, that the alcoholic Middenface McNulty is drinking again, or that Alpha and Durham Red are engaged in a somewhat unusual relationship. The script also hints at the darkness which haunts Johnny Alpha. Upon his return from the dead in previous stories, this was made brutally clear by using a somewhat blunt narrative device, but in the Repo men, it’s the small moments when Alpha seems to relish the idea that he might die that give the character a slightly morbid edge.


The legendary Carlos Ezquerra provides the art throughout, bringing his much loved gritty panels with chunky characters. Ezquerra’s scenes often look heavily inspired by Westerns, with larger than life iconic figures, endless deserts beneath angry skies, and fast and bloody gun fights. As Alpha’s adventures take him off across the universe, we are treated to a range of unique alien races, whilst even in locations closer to home, a crowd might be populated by individuals with a whole host of different mutations.


The Repo men is filled with fun elements. The appearance of a Gronk toy, or some background on the mysterious Stix family are minor details which will appeal to long term readers. At the same time, nothing that has gone before is essential to understand the stories collected here, and, as with most 2000AD strips, newer readers should never feel left out.


There are a few missteps in the storytelling. A satirical comics mocking despotic regimes should be taken for granted, but the Stix Fix story resorts to providing comedy names for its Korean characters, which feels a little too close to laughing at a people rather than at their government. Also, the character of Precious Matson, a mutant reporter who played a pivotal role in Johnny Alpha’s resurrection, appears only briefly as Alpha’s lingerie wearing lover, but fulfils no real role and isn’t even referred to by name in the scenes she’s in.


Strontium Dog: Repo Men may not be the absolute best stories from these characters, but they are fun filled and action packed.

Our Score:


A Look Inside