Preview: Back With The Top Dog – ‘Strontium Dog: Search & Destroy 2’
by Richard Bruton
The second volume of Johnny Alpha’s classic adventures from early 2000 AD by the classic team of Wagner, Grant, and Ezquerra…
It started in Search & Destroy Volume 1, reprinting the very earliest adventures of Johnny Alpha, THE Strontium Dog, from the pages of Starlord comic. Now, with volume 2, he’s moved over to 2000 AD to continue all those epic adventures, going on to become one of 2000 AD‘s favourite characters, all thanks to the tight cowboy sci-fi writing of John Wagner and Alan Grant and the unmistakable brilliance of Carlos Ezquerra on art.
The set-up is so wonderfully simple – a post-nuclear world, shared by the Norms and the Muties, a persecuted class whose bodies have been warped by the Strontium-90 nuclear fallout. With mutations ranging from almost superhuman (Johnny Alpha) to the out-and-out ridiculous (most of the supporting cast), there’s just one way out for them – join the ranks of the Strontium Dogs, bounty hunters tasked with tracking down the scum of the galaxy.
Along with his loyal partner Wulf Sternhammer, Johnny Alpha’s got the rep as the best of the Stronts, plying their trade wherever it takes them, with Wagner/Grant & Ezquerra giving us the perfect spaghetti western in space.
In Volume 2 we get four classic storylines for Johnny – Galaxy Killers, Journey Into Hell, Death’s Head, and The Schicklgruber Grab. All of them absolute classics for your enjoyment.
So, it’s off to the depths of space for The Galaxy Killers, pure space opera stuff with Johnny, Wulf, and comedy companion the Gronk (Oh, my heartsies!) press-ganged into the army of the Walrogs. Then we head breathlessly into Journey Into Hell, an over-the-top bit of wonderfulness with Alpha, Wulf and the Gronk on the trail of a rogue S/D agent, straight into another dimension and one that looks a lot like Hell, complete with demonic rulers.
After that, it’s into Death’s Head, with Wagner joined by Grant, and then we’re into the stand-out storyline here, The Schicklgruber Grab, with the comedy coming from unexpected sources as the trio head back in time to collect a bounty on Adolf Hitler.
And of course, all the way through we have Ezquerra being Ezquerra, namely one of the most innovative, brilliant, dynamic, iconic, and the artist who drew practically all of Johnny Alpha’s adventures.
If you consider the 2000 AD triumvirate of classic characters – Dredd, Rogue Trooper, and Strontium Dog, Dredd always comes out on top, due to the depth of the concept of Dredd and his world, where successive writers have always been able to mine the rich storytelling seam of a future world of multiple characters. Strontium Dog is more like Rogue, a single character driving it all, the space western to Rogue’s space war tale.
But when you see Strontium Dog done right, just like it is here, with great art, a writing team on top form, unapologetically giving you a great spaghetti western in space, unafraid to lay the comedy and the absurdity on thick, and doing it all at breakneck speed… well, then it’s just a sublime trip back into the early days of what made (and still makes) 2000 AD so essential.
Strontium Dog: Search & Destroy Volume 2
Written by John Wagner and Alan Grant, art by Carlos Ezquerra.
Published by 2000 AD on 2nd February 2023
Contains the stories...
The Galaxy Killers – written by John Wagner, art by Carlos Ezquerra, letters by Peter Knight and Carlos Ezquerra. Originally serialised in 2000 AD Progs 86-94.
Journey into Hell – written by John Wagner, art by Carlos Ezquerra, letters by John Aldrich. Originally serialised in 2000 AD Progs 104-118.
Death’s Head – written by John Wagner and Alan Grant, art by Carlos Ezquerra, letters by Steve Potter. Originally serialised in 2000 AD Progs 178-181.
The Schicklgruber Grab – written by John Wagner and Alan Grant, art by Carlos Ezquerra, letters by Steve Potter. Originally serialised in 2000 AD Progs 182-188.
Now, a quick preview from each…