PrintE-mail Written by Alister Davison

Since his arrival from the short-lived Starlord comic, mutant bounty hunter Johnny Alpha has been one of 2000 AD’s most enduring characters. His is a realm packed with the weird and wonderful, yet – like the best science-fiction stories – there was always a topical moral behind the adventure. It's a universe ripe for the plucking, which is what fanzines are all about, and while Dogbreath has fun with its readers, it's also very respectful of the source material.

Inside an eye-catching cover, there are five standalone stories. Yet, the entertainment begins before this, presenting the reader with an amusing and irreverent contents page, a taste of what's to come. All the stories are of a high standard, with a twist at the end, something like a Future Shock set in the Strontium Dog universe. Anyone who's read Dogbreath before will know what to expect, but seeing Alpha drawn by anyone other than Carlos Ezquerra may prove a shock to some. There’s nothing to worry about, though; each artist’s interpretation is a good one, fitting in well with the stories and often highlighting just how eerie Alpha’s blank eyes are.

With regard to the stories, there isn't a bad one here. Cart of Darkness ties in with the cover, but all is not as it seems with Alpha using brains rather than brawn, concocting a cunning plan that would make Blackadder proud. The First Day features a group of rookie agents and, while it's very funny, there's an underlying satire to it all. Come on You Reds is an interesting take on Durham Red, making the character warmer than usual, showing her as a vampire by necessity rather than choice. Tremor Wings, despite featuring the Gronk, has a surprisingly downbeat ending. The highlight of all the stories is The Wee Nap, featuring Middenface McNulty. It's a grim tale with narration that sits somewhere between Raymond Chandler and Trainspotting, combined with artwork evocative of the film noir genre, setting it in a grubby locale.

Nestled between the comic book action are the Case Files, with writer Leigh Shepherd dissecting, yet also fondly remembering, a selection of stories from the old annuals. There's also a Tale from the Doghouse, a prose story that has its tongue firmly in its cheek and is backed up by art that is reminiscent of Ezquerra himself.

All in all, Dogbreath 30 is very well done. It's easy to see the love within the work by all its creators, who've taken the sly wit that always existed in Strontium Dog, and lifted it up a level. It's not always subtle, but it's continually refreshing and a thoroughly entertaining read, a worthy tribute to a long-standing character and his companions.


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