(WARNING – Review contains spoilers)

Im amazed there haven’t been more spin offs from Rogue Trooper. The war on Nu-Earth is very much a blank canvas in that, we don’t know how it started, how it will end, or to be honest much of what happens that doesn’t involve Rogue. So when I heard that there was to be a spin off set in space, but still part of the Nu-Earth war, I was pretty excited. Unlike many others, I wasn’t disapointed.

Set aboard the Souther station called The Citadel, The 86ers is a classic space opera type strip. You can expect lots of battles in space, and lots of space crafts, against the backdrop of an asteroid belt and a Gas Giant. We’re introduced to the The 86ers through new recruit (and female G.I.) Rafe, which was a great idea as it allows the reader to be introduced to the many characters aboard The Citadel through her eyes. After the first strip though the focus is taken away from Rafe, and becomes more about the crew of The Citadel, and their ongoing battles with the Norts. The crew are a really interesting bunch, especially the squad of Norts who have joined the Southers, after betraying their own clan. The other characters are a cynical (but memorable) bunch, just trying to survive against the odds in a (seemingly) never ending war.

There is a story arc running right the way through this trade, although its not always entirely clear what it is. It would appear that the Southers have discovered an extremely powerful race of aliens, who were long thought dead. I say appears as we never actually get to see the aliens, apart from one which is in stasis so doesn’t actually do anything. While that is frustrating, it does lend the aliens a real sense of mystery, and when it comes down to a desperate attempt to stop them from being awoken, the reader believes that they really are all powerful and should never be disturbed. All of this is a nice change from the usual “G.I. battles Norts on Nu-Earth”, that we’ve come to expect from anything associated with Rogue Trooper.

The art is nice throughout, and is exactly the sort of clear, crisp art that suits storys set in space. It must be great fun for an artist to get to draw a strip like The 86ers, especially the huge battle scenes which occur throughout, and I did get a sense while reading that the atrists were having a blast. There is however a change of artist two parts into the first strip, which is both jarring and immediatly obvious.

I can’t work out why The 86ers isn’t more popular than it is. Im a huge fan of these space opera type storys, so I guess I was always going to like it, but I can’t find anything wrong with it. Theres a really clever and complex story running though out the strips, which puts The 86ers way above your generic battles in space type story. The only fault I can find is that the ending is a bit open, and seems to be the set up for a sequel, which sadly has yet to materialise. If your a fan of well written space opera, or you want to learn more about the war from the Rogue Trooper strips, then I can highely recommend The 86ers.