Garth EnnisStrontium Dog2000 AD
Strontium Dogs: Monsters
Medium: comic
Year: 1991
Writer: Garth Ennis
Artist: Steve Pugh
Country: UK
Keywords: Strontium Dog, 2000 AD
Format: 2000 AD 750-761
Website category: Comics UK
Review date: 1 March 2022
It's easily one of this era's better 2000 AD strips, knocking spots off Ennis's Judge Dredd work. It is, though, rescued by its artist and using Feral in a way that sets him up badly for his mis-fitting future role of post-Alpha protagonist.
The Strontium Dogs are dead. They got killed and now mutants are on the run, being hunted down by the British Army while occasionally committing acts of terror as the Mutant Liberation Front. One of the few survivors is Feral, an albino werewolf-reptile with scary claws and lots of self-pity. He has a lot to be miserable about, yes, but he's also so passive that I wouldn't call him a protagonist. His story role is more like Frankenstein's Monster, occasionally committing ultra-violence but mostly just drifting and leaving the decisions to others. "Been here three days. I might not see a fourth sunrise. I might not give a damn."
He's a bit stupid, to be honest, and it's hard to disagree when a bad guy describes him like that. Also, Pugh makes him ugly. Pugh likes drawing ugly people. I'm not complaining, though. Pugh's painted art is amazing and makes the story compelling.
The tone is deadly serious. This is Ennis with zero jokes, playing everything for real. This is a gruesome universe, with characters including a bigot who killed his own baby. Pugh's art is all-important in helping set the tone here. Ennis has things to say about revolutionary organisations that are actually preying on their own people and don't actually want rid of their oppressors. (Spot the Northern Irish writer.) "A lot've the kids are gettin' uneasy about the liberation levy. I mean, look. They bully their people out of sixty creds each a month, then give it to us - an' they still haven't seen any results."
The main character is Bet. She has a horrible past. She hates her own life as much as Feral hates his. I cared about her.
It's a strong story, with a strong ending. It feels real and nasty and as if the writer cares, which you can't say of all 2000 AD stories. It's the best serial in 2000 AD 750-761, despite David Roach's beautiful art on Anderson Psi Division and a Mark Millar Robo-Hunter story that's reaching the unusual heights of "almost readable". (Anthony Williams's art deserves a lot of the credit there.) I even like Feral, although Ennis is taking him to a place that's a long, long way from any kind of heroic role. That's not a bad thing, though.
"Okay, get a couple of platoons down there. Turn the place over. And do a few executions while you're there."