A team of immortals do jobs for hire, but their latest may not be as legitimate as they thought it was in The Old Guard #1.
The Old Guard #1
Cover Price: $3.99
Story Pages: 35
Collected in: TBD
Just about fifteen years ago writer Greg Rucka was penning the acclaimed series Queen & Country for Oni Comics. Mr. Rucka changed the artist he collaborated with at the beginning of each new story arc, and at the beginning of the third arc, titled “Operation: Crystal Ball“, he was joined by a new artist named Leandro Fernandez. Now, I will admit that this particular arc is one of my least favorite from an art perspective, but a lot changes in fifteen years and Mr. Fernandez has grown into quite the talented artist with an impressive back catalog. The creative team has joined forces once again to give us a new creator-owned comic, this time from Image, called “The Old Guard”.
The basic premise isn’t anything particularly mind-blowing: four immortals have been warriors for most of their long lives, and they sell those talents to those in need. They have a strict “one-time only” policy when it comes to employers so as to prevent anyone from catching on to the fact that they are immortals. They decide to break that policy this one time when they are handed an operation to save young girls about to be sent into slavery. That’s certainly nothing amazing, but as with most work by Mr. Rucka the devil is in the details.
Our main character is Andy, a woman and the apparent leader of the immortal mercenaries. She has lived a long time, and been seemingly killed in battle several times in that life. She is obviously quite tired of life, she even says so herself, but so far has never been able to escape the mortal coil. There is a bitterness in every move she makes, every word she speaks and it takes a lot to make her care about anything. Even with all that, however, she remains an interesting character, and one that compels us to keep reading on. Fans of the aforementioned Queen & Country will see a lot of Tara Chace in Andy, but more tempered and worn down by the ages.
Of course, a good character needs a good story to follow them around, and the The Old Guard #1 is up to the task. There is a good amount of plot packed into this issue, and quite a bit more that it is hinted at. The main thread follows our team as they get drawn into a mission by an old contact, and then we get to see how it all falls apart. The team has clearly been setup, and the big question is who laid the trap? Interwoven into this is the story of another woman on a similar mission, which may or may not be connected to the Old Guard’s current task. The groundwork has been laid for a lot of different subplots, and most of them are intriguing enough to warrant full story arcs of their own.
The main weakness here is that the other three members of Andy’s team are still largely anonymous. One of them carries a big sword around with him, but otherwise they are mostly indistinguishable from each other. I assume this is an issue that will be rectified the further along the series gets, but for the moment this is the Andy show and the others are window dressing. We do get enough of a sense that all four of them have known each other for a long time (which makes sense) and function more like a family than a mercenary group, but there are large holes in their team dynamic at the moment.
I mentioned above that Leandro Fernandez’s work back in the day on Queen & Country was not really to my tastes, and that still holds true here. However, a lot of the artistic quirks that put me off of his original project have been toned down significantly here, and I am better able to appreciate his sense of panel layouts and ability to show frenetic action. The aesthetics of his characters aren’t a style I enjoy, but that doesn’t mean he isn’t a talented artist, and it is clear that he was a good choice for this book. Daniela Miwa provides the colors over Leandro’s work, and she is equally worthy of praise. The book follows a muted, dark style, but there is still a surprising amount of color diversity in the book. The use of varied color palettes works well to make the reader aware when a scene has transitioned, or when the time frame has changed. It isn’t flashy, but it is well done.
The Old Guard #1 is a good book that I can heartily recommend to most people. It has a strong central character even if her teammates are still blank slates, and the plot is just different enough from the normal fare to stay engaging. You’ll be able to predict parts of the book, but probably not all of them. Fans of Queen & Country should not hesitate to pick this up, and people who enjoy good, mature action stories with interesting characters would also do well to take a look. Also keep in mind that it is a $3.99 book, but it has 35 pages of content. That is a better deal than you will get from most mainstream comics these days. Mr. Rucka doesn’t write as many comic books as he used, so it is a treat to get more creator-owned work from him. If your only exposure to his work so far are his Star Wars titles (which are not the best representation of his skills) then you owe it to yourself to give this a try.