Review by Ian Keogh
Futuristic bounty hunter Strontium Dog was created by John Wagner and Carlos Ezquerra in 1978, and ‘The Son’ is their final collaboration from 2021. Wagner rapidly sidesteps continuity that closed Johnny Alpha’s agency down and uses the rebirth to introduce some trainees, one of which is Kenton Sternhammer, son of Johnny’s long-term former agency partner, the now dead Wulf. It makes sense that when a mentor is needed Kenton teams with Johnny to learn how the bounty hunting business works. They’re shipped to a planet where there’s never been an army or police force as everyone is law abiding and considerate, but now aliens have arrived, and that’s not their way.
Older readers will experience a nostalgic glow to seeing the Wagner/Ezquerra partnership back together again, and Strontium Dog was always a more straightforward action strip under their hands. Wagner resorts to some obvious tricks, but he also figures a viable way of involving Wulf without flashbacks, and has some surprises to drop along the way. Ezquerra, though lacks the verve and style of older days. The story is told clearly, but functionally rather than spectacularly.
There’s far more character to Ezquerra’s art on an earlier Alan Grant strip in which Johnny and Wulf appear, but it’s a Durham Red outing along with comedy sidekick Jones the Voice. Grant slips plenty of Tom Jones jokes into a bounty hunting adventure targeting someone who may be beyond capture. It’s a little contrived, but also fun.
Grant and Ezquerra then take a look at how life might have played out if Max Bubba hadn’t killed Wulf when he did. It’s a strangely by the motions piece lacking the intended dramatic impact until a sentimental ending.
Separating Ezquerra’s final work from his earlier stories is a Rob Williams and Laurence Campbell short that’s stylishly drawn, but which depends too much on implausible coincidence in the end. Far better overall is the final Wulf solo spotlight. That too has impressive art from Patrick Goddard (sample right), but Mike Carroll turns in a story shot all the way through with the right amount of sentimentality as a maudlin Wulf drowns his sorrows in the Valhalla bar. The book ends with another winner from Matt Smith and Chris Weston featuring a neat twist.
There’s going to be a natural desire to see Ezquerra’s final work on the character he designed forty years previously, but The Son’s better strips are all by people not as intimately associated with the character, and they’re all shorter. The Gronk is only seen in passing, but otherwise almost every worthwhile Strontium Dog appears in these pages, but despite the memorial quality, there are far better Johnny Alpha collections available.