Strontium Dog: Search / Destroy Agency Files 02 – John Wagner, Alan Grant

5 out of 5

Everyone seems to love working on Strontium Dog. You can just… feel it. Not that there’s not joy found in other Wagner / Grant / Ezquerra projects, but there’s a job well done, and there’s loving something, and the way this team has just fully launched in to Johnny Alpha’s world very much suggests the latter. The setup would be so easy for one-and-done strips: mutant bounty hunter Alpha and his “norm” partner Wulf hunt down a perp-of-the-week, who can be a funkily-designed mutant, and drop some action and one-liners in there and you’re done. But instead, we get epic after epic after epic: a deep dive into Johnny’s past; a journey to resurrecting the dead; setting up a long-term villain with the Stix Brothers… And the side characters feel equal love, with the various mutated spins on “here’s my face, but in a strange location” giving way to all sorts of lovable, personable types; Middenface McNulty is gold as soon as he appears, with his ununderstandable Scottish brogue, and then Wags and Grant just dig into it even more, giving him something of a starring role in the concluding epic…

Grant is solely credited in the strips themselves, but it seems he and Wagner were writing this together. It “reads” like that because we get Wagner’s penchant for dark humor blended with Grant’s goofier sense of satire, balancing out for fantastic and compelling riffs on racism and politics – the mutants as lower class members – and the duo figuring out a good code of morals for Alpha and Wulf to follow, in which they don’t always agree, except in that they’re partners. It’s a perfect dynamic.

Stitch this to their partner in crime: Carlos Ezquerra. There must’ve been an ongoing challenge, here, to see how big they could go on a weekly strip and still have Carlos blow every page of art out of the water. The scale of these stories is on the level of any given monthly DC / Marvel comic event: spanning worlds; spanning times; massive, blockbuster action; and it never fails to look amazingly impressive, and dense with detail. I’m in awe.

Besides Wagner, Grant, and Carlos, the only other contributor is again featured in an annual, from Gary Rice and Steve Kyte. The (presumably) color downgrade to murky b&w is unfortunate, and, as with the other annuals, it’s a more generic tale vs. what’s happening in the main prog, but I appreciate the inclusion for completion, and given how solid the preceding progs entries are – and how much material that is! – I can’t knock this compilation for what we could consider a “bonus” strip. The set also includes some covers.