Dirty Pair: Dangerous Acquaintances


By Toren Smith & Adam Warren (Manga Books)
ISBN: 978-1-900097-06-0 (UK edition)

In the fast and furious future of 2141AD, intergalactic proliferation of human civilisation has led to a monumental bureaucracy, greater corruption and more deadly criminals preying upon the citizens of the United Galactica.

Thus the constant need for extra-special Trouble Consultants: pan-planetary private paramilitary police employed by the 3WA (or Worlds Welfare Work Association) to maintain order in hotspots across the (sort-of) civilised universe…

Kei and Yuri are team #234, officially designated “The Lovely Angels” after their sleek and efficient starship. They are lethal, capable and infallible. Whenever they are deployed, they strike fast and hard and never fail…

However, the collateral damage they inevitably cause is utterly unimaginable and usually makes client worlds regret ever asking for their aid in the first place….

Much to the crisis agents’ disgust and chagrin, the ever-present media have dubbed them “The Dirty Pair” and any planetary government unlucky enough to need them generally regards them less as first choice and more a last resort …

The concept was originated for light novels by Japanese author Haruka (Crusher Joe) Takachiho in 1985 before making the jump to TV, movie and OVA anime. Oddly there was no comics iteration until over a decade later. This situation prompted Adam Warren and Toren Smith of manga translation company Studio Proteus to approach independent publisher Eclipse Comics with an idea for a US comicbook miniseries…

The result was Biohazards; a riot of light-hearted, manic murder and monstrous mayhem which was then swiftly collected in a brash and breezy graphic album. The reprintings from US franchise inheritor Dark Horse (and Manga Books in the UK) heralded a blistering run of wry and raucous adventures that still read as well today as they did when the Japanese comics experience was seen as a rare, quaint and exotic oddity…

In the follow-up Dangerous Acquaintances – originally released as a 5-issue miniseries from Eclipse between June 1989 and March 1990, before first being gathered into a trade paperback in 1991 – the catastrophically unlucky private sector peacekeepers are enjoying a spot of well-deserved downtime on planet Rocinante – a world riotously celebrating its 25th year of independence – when soused-to-the-gorgeous-gills Kei spots an unwelcome but very familiar face…

‘Things Past’ explains that although free, single and over 21, the planet is in turmoil due to the imminent arrival of a host of dignitaries on experimental super liner “The Lyra” (one of only three vessels capable of jumping to warp within a planet’s gravity-well) and the increasingly desperate outrages of terrorist cell United Galactica/Free Rocinate.

None of that means anything to the drunken danger girl: all she can think about is getting her hands on a woman who once betrayed and nearly killed her…

Back when she and Yuri were mere trainee cadets they were constantly and humiliatingly surpassed in every discipline by Shasti. Their rival was a bioroid built by 3WA to be the ultimate Trouble Agent: a tetrad possessing a perfectly designed body and, thanks to multiple uploaded personalities, able to shift instantly between being the ideal warrior, detective, spy or social specialist, amongst others.

She never failed on any mission but there were worries that her schizoid mind-menu might have made her crazy…

Back in the present Kei refuses to calm down and chaotically pursues her target through massing crowds with the constantly complaining Yuri hot on her heels. As ‘Dangerous Acquaintances’ opens, they track Shasti across town and Yuri casts her mind back to their last mission with her, when they were all assigned to bring in a deadly sociopath named Lacombe

On present-day Rocinante the totally-tanked pursuers catch up with the oblivious target at a shopping plaza in time to see her trading a briefcase with a suspicious-looking bearded stranger. Unfortunately, when they confront her, Shasti has lost none of her combat advantages…

As the bioroid orders her accomplice to flee, Yuri’s mind flashes back to the mission when Shasti’s instability kicked in and she inexplicably proclaimed her love for the lethally compelling Lacombe…

The reverie is shattered as the planet’s Special Police storm in, brutally arresting the Trouble Agents whilst letting their meek-seeming “victim” go, and ‘Unquiet Zone’ finds the furious, sober and mortally hung-over operatives sprung simply because the cops need their cell for more provably-crazy UG/FR fanatics.

As Kei and Yuri hit the streets their fragile ears are bombarded with a public broadcast announcing the imminent arrival of the dignitary-stuffed, treasure-laden “Lyra” and, horrified, they realise where Shasti will strike, even if not what exactly she’s after…

Whilst the determined pair are planning to sneak aboard the wonder-ship, in an opulent hotel room their despised foe is giving her band of revolutionaries a final inspirational pep-talk, but her minds are focused on the moment long ago when she and her team of Trouble Agents cornered Lacombe.

The mission was going perfectly until she switched sides, joining the insanely seductive terrorist and murdering all her comrades. Or so she thought…

On the Lyra, Yuri and Kei have endured all manner of hell, (barely) dressed as hospitality hostesses constantly groped by the great and good of many civilisations. The ruse has however allowed them to find Shasti’s inside man and after a little “enhanced interrogation” he reveals his freedom-loving leader’s plan.

Except, of course, Shasti has been lying to the UG/FR all along. Now in control of the prototype ship, the bioroid activates the lockdown protocols and sealing everybody in. Whilst the still oblivious rebel cadres carve a bloody swathe through the imprisoned plutocrats, she undertakes her true goal: stealing the entire experimental warp section right out of the super-liner…

Locked cabins and robotic security lasers are no match for angry Angels and in ‘One of My Turns’ the apparently unkillable agents bust out and, tooling up with ballistic ordinance from the Lyra’s museum exhibit of ancient weapons, go hunting…

As the suddenly engine-less Lyra plunges to fiery doom at the ‘Ground Zero’ of Rocinante’s capital city, in deep space the engine section module reappears and Shasti waits for a rendezvous with her murderous beloved. She has no idea that the women she betrayed, almost murdered and unforgettably humiliated have made the jump with her and are hungrily approaching to take a decade’s-worth of bloody vengeance…

At once incredibly information-dense and astonishingly addictive, these deliciously daft yet cool, light-hearted cyber-punk space operas offer a solidly satisfying slice of futuristic fantasy to delight all fans of tech-heavy blockbusters. Also included is a pastiche-packed, behind-the-scenes farcical feature as Adam Warren shockingly reveals ‘Just How the Dirty Pair Gets Done!!’ to leaven all that savage comedy with some outrageous silliness…

The digest-sized (210x150mm) UK editions have the tag line “in the tradition of Red Dwarf” and that assessment is not a million miles from the truth – as long as you factor in sexy death-dealing ingénues, sharp socio-political commentary, incomprehensibly skimpy costumes and utter oodles of cartoon carnage.

Brutally wry, explosively funny, hilariously action-packed and extremely spectacular, this is a truly stellar romp to get every sci fi aficionado panting for more.
The Dirty Pair © 1994 Haruka Takachiho. English language version © 1994 Adam Warren and Studio Proteus. All rights reserved.