Venus Bluegenes: Venus on the Frag Shell (pkgd. w/ JD Meg #318) – Various

3 out of 5

Three Rogue-related thrills: two involving Venus, and the last part of the Tor Cyan story cycle, presumably collected in a previous floppy.

Venus Bluegenes is a bit vaguely defined in the opener from Dan Abnett, just as Simon Coleby’s early art feels more indebted to the general vibe of the 90s – Jim Lee and such – as opposed to the artist’s more stylized, identifiable look from the modern era. This is a fun story, if a bit illogical; Dan’s writing from this time is rather wordy, and you can feel him trying to find a “voice,” but also not necessarily knowing what to do with Venus besides toss her into a scenario where she can kick ass. Essentially, Venus discovers another soldier-enhancement program, partnering up with an escapee from it and protecting him from his enhancers. There are some fun beats, but again, the story is kind of empty action.

What’s more interesting is how this is linked to the followup story from Steve White and Henry Flint, which is much more engaging and emotional, if initially something of a heavy lift in terms of setup, making the lead-in slow. White’s writing is more mature than Abnett’s in comparison, giving Venus actual personality, and though the concept is similar – another soldier-enhancement program is discovered – the nuance in how Venus (and others) respond and react to it is fascinating.

Lastly, John Tomlinson and Jock finish off Tor Cyan, a character from Mercury Heights who was (I believe) editorially mandated to turn into Rogue Trooper. Tomlinson, when he’s tuned into what he’s writing – some Dredds he’s written have been pretty tragically (maybe amusingly) casual – is an excellent writer, and he seemed invested in Tor, making this a heavy, complex set of strips. Jock’s art is a bit too “big” at points, finding action where a more somber beat might do, but the pages are undeniably exciting. As a standalone set of strips, this has a learning curve, but is also evidence of how great creators can make something interesting even if you don’t have context of the preceding story.