The Stainless Steel Rat is another of those 2000AD series that people of a certain age might remember fondly from its original run. It was probably a bit of a coup for 2000AD and is certainly a little different, being a comic adaptation by Kelvin Gosnell of a character from a series of sci-fi novels by Harry Harrison. Three novels (The Stainless Steel Rat, The Stainless Steel Rat Saves the World and The Stainless Steel Rat For President) have been crammed into the three comic series, all of which are collected in this volume.
The series starts with James Bolivar DiGriz, a career criminal, being hunted and eventually recruited by an intergalactic law enforcement agency. The second story sees him going back in time to save Earth from a bizarre, history-spanning time war. In the last, he tries to save another planet from its aging dictator by running for president in a campaign mired in corruption and dirty tricks.
What’s probably the best thing about the book is that it’s illustrated throughout by Carlos Ezquerra. Ezquerra appears to have used James Coburn as a model for Jim De Griz, and the characterisation is carried through the three stories perfectly.
Something interesting happens to Ezquerra’s art in the third series, though, as it develops into a much cleaner style that’s almost unfamiliar. I’m honestly not sure what’s happened here, perhaps his pencil work was inked by someone else or he was just trying something different. It remains undeniably Ezquerra but it’s markedly different. Fans of the great man should enjoy it for its quirky difference.
Overall the book is an interesting nostalgia trip. As ever, the impact it would have had back in the early 1980s has had the edge taken off it over time and you probably wouldn’t argue that it’s remained a timeless classic. Still, it’s an interesting and coherent example of the kind of thing 2000AD was trying to do at the time, and is certainly worth a look if you feel a deep nostalgia for the period.