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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars When they get Slade... they stay slayed!, 11 Jun 2010
By 
G. Meldrum (Scotland, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Robo-Hunter: The Droid Files Vol. 1 (Paperback)
Hard-edged lunacy. That's how John Wagner, writer and co-creator of Sam Slade famously described the tone of the Robo-Hunter tales. No finer phrase has ever been coined to sum up what makes these collected stories, and by extension 2000AD itself, so great. This first and greatest volume of Sam's exploits covers the stories "Verdus", "Day of the Droids", "The Beast of Blackheart Manor", "The Filby Case" and "The Killing of Kidd", along with a bonus tale from the 1984 annual.

For those not in the know, Sam Slade is a futuristic private detective who deals exclusively in robot crime. A blunt, cynical, self-promoting sort who's more than a little trouble prone, Slade's key character trait has to be exasperation. A workaday tough guy, Slade is constantly thrust into and swept up in utterly insane cybernetic scenarios, meaning that the chief joy of his stories lies in seeing him try to come to frustrated terms with the mechanical madness that besieges him at every turn. De-aged from his 60s to his mid-20s in his first story, Sam combines gun-slinging athleticism with an endearing world weariness to winning effect, and unlike many of 2000AD's more dyed-in-the-wool hardmen, has a tendency to mess up big-time, to comic effect.

The first story in this volume is also Sam's finest hour, "Verdus", in which he has to travel to a demented planet where robots have run rampant and refuse to believe that human beings are in fact human at all. Though the early episodes feature art by both Jose Luis Ferrer and the mighty Ian Gibson, the former is rapidly phased out in favour of the latter: along with "Halo Jones", this has to be the series for which Gibson is most renowned. "Verdus" really showcases the evolution of his talent, from his somewhat grittier early approach to his increasingly familiar depiction of stylised mayhem. It also features Slade's first artificial sidekick, the ill-fated Cutie, who is replaced in the next tale, "Day of the Droids", by Slade's more familiar sparring partners, the enthusiastic robo-cigar Stogie, and the idiot A.I. Hoagy. These two epics are the classics of Robo-Hunter, brilliant tales which cleverly balance ridiculous humour with hard-hitting action in what would become the classic 2000AD tradition. In fact, they are probably most similar in tone and atmosphere to `Ace Trucking Co.' - crazy, but with that aforementioned edge.

After "Day of the Droids", Slade takes off for Brit-Cit and Alan Grant becomes sole scripter. The Brit-City stories are where the balance between action and humour tips in favour of the latter, to the detriment of the series, which works best when not straying too far in either direction. Nonetheless, there're plenty of memorable moments in this era of Slade, though nothing to match the first two stories. Having said that, "The Beast of Blackheart Manor" is of particular historical note due to a rather odd piece of censorship imposed on it - Slade spends most of the story chomping down on particularly fine pies, but whilst the alert reader will rapidly figure out the nature of the filling, the big reveal about what Sam is eating never comes, thanks to editorial mandate.

Overall then, this volume is absolutely unmissable for any 2000AD connoisseur, simply due to the "Verdus" story alone, though "Day of the Droids" has many wonderful moments, such as the exploits of the East-Side Androids, Slade snogging Clark Gable (!), and the antics of angry union-bot and cocktail-droid Molotov. And if that last sentence seems pretty bizarre to you, well... you only had to read it. Sam Slade had to live it. As Cutie rightly observes... "Poor Sam!"
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1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good Deal!, 2 Jan 2010
By 
Jason Cross "JasonX1971" (Plymouth, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Robo-Hunter: The Droid Files Vol. 1 (Paperback)
In the same format as Rebellion's early Judge Dredd releases, this is a massive wallop of a book, delivering all your thrll-power needs. This would have rated higher, but I already had the publisher's earlier Robo-Hunter releases. This aside, it's well wort a second, third, and forth reading!
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Robo-Hunter: The Droid Files Vol. 1
Robo-Hunter: The Droid Files Vol. 1 by John Wagner (Paperback - 15 Dec 2009)
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