Genetic InfantrymanEssential Rogue Trooper – Genetic Infantryman

Writer: Gerry Finley-Day
Artists: Dave Gibbons, Colin Wilson, Cam Kennedy, Brett Ewins
Publisher: 2000AD
Collects: Progs 228, 229, 231-241, 246-253, 258, 265-279
Publication Date: March 2024

Starting in the late 70s, an explosion of Sci-Fi movies, TV shows and comics occurred in large part thanks to the success of Star Wars. Everything from The Terminator to Mobile Suit Gundam were telling stories of planetary civil wars, on worlds much like our own. In that pantheon of classic sci-fi war stories was born Rogue Trooperthe Genetic Infantryman.

The original Rogue Trooper debuted in 1981 and is reprinted here in a new line from 2000AD. Essential Rogue Trooper – Genetic Infantryman collects the early stories from series co-creators Gerry Finley-Day and Dave Gibbons. While Gibbons leaves the book early on, this collection reprints a majority of his run from it, as well as the top talent that would replace him in subsequent progs, including Colin Wilson, Cam Kennedyand Brett Ewins.

In the distant future, on the planet Nu-Earth, there is an ever escalating civil war between two factions: The Norts and the Southerns. While Nu-Earth was once a paradise, it has since become nearly uninhabitable. Biological contamination from weapons makes it impossible to walk the surface without a chemsuit. Despite this, the war rages on for seemingly no reason.

In order to gain the upper hand, the Southern forces create the Genetic Infantrymen, a bio-engineered race of super soldiers immune to all toxins, able to survive on the contaminated planet without chemsuits. Should they be killed in action, they may also have their minds stored in “Dog Chips” which keep them alive until their body is replaced. However, in a battle called the Quartz Zone Massacre, the Genetic Infantrymen are betrayed and killed with the exception of one Rogue trooper. Rogue takes the chips from his buddies — Bagman, Gunner and Helm — and places them into his gear: his backpack, gun and helmet, respectively. Rogue then goes AWOL to track down this traitor and avenge his fellow GIs, while his dead comrades talk to him through his gear.

If that’s the most metal thing you’ve ever heard, then I’ll repeat to you what I was told when I first started reading Rogue Trooper comics: It’s the most metal thing you’ve ever heard so far.

Rogue Trooper balances a level of camp and sincerity that fits perfectly into this era of 80s Sci-Fi, moving seamlessly from puns or one-liners into haunting images of devastated landscapes and the graves of fallen soldiers. Dave Gibbons establishes the environment of Nu-Earth as half-way between a post-nuclear fallout civilization mixed with hints of otherworldly, sci-fi technology. Despite the futuristic elements, the comic feels distinctly grounded in an old school war comic sensibility. Gibbons’ line work emphasizes how Rogue’s movements and ability to navigate the terrain of this world are beyond ordinary soldiers. His lean frame and thin linework are in direct contrast to the bulky chemsuits worn by largely ineffectual soldiers.

Screenshot 2024 05 18 7.34.53 AMWhile Gibbons does not remain on the title very long, his influence and aesthetic principles become ingrained in the work of all the artists working in this collection. Colin Wilson in particular captures the mash-up of sci-fi and nuclear fallout extremely well, while preserving the elegant designs established by Gibbons previously.

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Gerry Finley-Day is clearly moving the series towards a defined conclusion. While most of the progs presented here can stand on their own, the premise is ultimately about Rogue finding the traitor general that orchestrated the Quartz Zone Massacre. We learn surprisingly quickly how each of the Rogue’s buddies were killed, and are constantly barrelling towards the identity of the traitor. Despite being a Rogue on the Southern side, and mostly fighting the Norths who occasionally mirror the Nazis, he is not necessarily moving towards winning the war.

The conflict on Nu-Earth in these early pages is never concretely defined, instead focusing on how the ever escalating arms race has muddied the origins and ideologies of the combatants. Rogue, unlike his fellow Southern soldiers, actually has a goal in mind and a way to achieve it. But that only occasionally plays into his desire to help the Southern forces. Afterall, he is Rogue and is often threatened with being captured due to his desertion in the war effort.

This tension feeds into how the series interrogates the idea of ​​humanity and the way technology makes conflict self-perpetuating, moving us further and further away from our very souls. One cannot live on Nu-Earth without a chemsuit, yet the very weapons that caused this environmental catastrophe are always readily available. In the trenches, the Southerns are often taunted by the horrific technology created by the Norts, like deadly sentient computers and the especially iconic Dream Weaver.

Genetic InfantrymanGenetic Infantryman

In both of these stories, the human soldiers are hounded by how the war has robbed them of their joys, their passions, and their opportunities for a better world. Even the idea that GIs themselves being created to survive inhuman conditions is a testament to how far away from ourselves we must become in order to exist in this world of perpetual war.

Like his 80s Sci-Fi contemporaries, Rogue himself has a Star Wars quality to his design. He’s big, blue and has sentient, otherworldly equipment. On the other hand, his basic aesthetic appeal could be used to just tell action stories with little moral substance. And while it’s fun to see Rogue occasionally help out the southern troopers against the Norts in an action sequence, it feels clear from the onset that there’s a somber and reflective element to him that is directly in contrast to the unclear terms of the war. He’s the least human thing in the book but he behaves in the most humane way. Afterall, he’s talking to his weapons of war about the inhumanity of war itself.

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Compared to American Superhero comics, he’s also never “thankful” for his abilities. They are convenient but they are never treated with any sort of reverence by him or by the text. At no point are Bagman, Helm, Gunner or Rogue appreciative of what they’ve been turned into. Their focus is never on victory, moral justification or even heroism. Rather than heroic, Rogue instead feels like a ghost or a spirit of the trenches. His alien appearance masks his teaching of what real humanity is. In the stories where he encounters Southern troops, they tend to be cowardly, or are taking needless risks. While Rogue is considered enough to rescue them, he rarely takes the time to tell his side of the story, he remains largely uninterested in his standing within the Southern or Northern factions and obeys his own morality and goals. In these early progs, some soldiers even treat him as an urban legend whom the southerners have given up on capturing. Just like most myths, when soldiers do come face to face with this battlefield spirit, he is far less comforting in person.

Importantly, this is a line of essentialsnot a complete collection of Rogue Trooper‘s adventures. Therefore, every prog is not reprinted in order. These omissions are by and large fine, with the exception of the missing progs 242-243. This story details Rogue’s encounter with a new species of plant that has evolved specifically to grow on Nu-Earth’s harsh conditions. However, as a previously undocumented species, it has the effect of immobilizing the GIs, something thought impossible due to their immunity to all known poisons. The story is surprisingly heartbreaking because it presents hope for new life but is physically incompatible with life as it exists today. Instead of being seen as a way to a better future, it’s simply relegated to a weapon. However, the omission doesn’t stick out to me simply because it’s a good story, but because it ends up mattering to the ongoing narrative. In “All Hell on the Dix-I Front,” reprinted in this collection, the immobilizing planet makes a comeback with an editors’ note to see “Rogue Trooper Vol 1: The Future of War.” This is also not the last time this planet will make an appearance, so I would encourage readers to seek out that story even if you cannot find it in this collection.

Aside from this omission, the biggest problem with this collection is the modernized coloring. The original strips were run in black-and-white, and other collections of the same material, like the Rogue Trooper: Tales from Nu-Earth paperbacks, are presented in the original coloring. However, with these updated colors, the comics lose much of their character and the nuances of the original line work.

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While colorizing the comics is not inherently a problem, the execution here is anarchistic, applying modern digital colors and shading that removes the series from its historical, pulp style. The emphasis ends up shifting towards the sci-fi elements with loud primary colors rather than the gritty war comics feel the stories have in black-and-white. The movement and backgrounds also lose much of their depth when they’re simply washed over in these shades.

Overall, while the coloring takes time to get used to, the book and choice of programs is largely excellent. Rogue Trooper – Genetic Infantryman It immediately defines itself as an iconic war and sci-fi comic, and even people well read in this genre will find new and interesting things to appreciate in this series.

Verdict: Buy

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