Immortality is something that has long been sought for but never achieved (supposedly). The Fountain of Youth, eating a mermaid, a vampires bite, there are many ways to not die, but what would you do with all that time? Finally take up knitting? For the four soldiers of The Old Guard, it’s doing what they do best, fighting for the highest bidder. Written by Eisner winner Greg Rucka, The Old Guard has him step away from his usual superhero fan-fare and allows him to come back to his first passion, original comic work with longtime collaborator, Leandro Fernandez. While I don’t usually use the words ‘action-packed’ and ‘a mile-a-minute thrills,’ this work has a cinematic quality to it rarely seen in the graphic world. A tight read that never lingers, The Old Guard is a solid baseline from the finickiest of comic readers to full blown addicts.
Old Guard #1 opens up with flashes of the oldest pair of twins: sex and violence. Warrior Andy, also known as Andromache of Scythia, reflects on her days of immortality before ditching another would-be lover. A warrior cursed to never die, she gets contacted by the three other eternal soldiers in her sordid little world on a rescue mission in North Africa. Little does she know that this is not your run-of-the-mill work and suddenly, keeping the secret of her everlasting life becomes a whole lot harder. Meanwhile, a young Marine in Afghanistan is on her own mission to hunt down a wanted terrorist and blurs the lines of life and death in the process.
There’s a lot going on in this comic in terms of both writing and illustration. Rucka takes the simple concept of “what if these old soldiers lived forever?” and managed to make a work that is more human than fantasy. Admittedly, I read the concept and immediately thought that this is going to be more god-like immortal bullshit, like a poor man’s Thor or Conan, but instead, Rucka writes a fair story about four people who, for some reason, just keep on living. There is no explanation (yet), no closure, it’s just a group of folks who are forced to exist and survive for eons when the only profession they know is being a warrior. They struggle to connect to the changing world and changing social attitudes while reminding themselves to not get attached to another human being since, well, they will die. Having only each other, it’s a story just as much about friendship as it is about the weariness of life. The juxtaposition of the four killing enemies while they themselves take bullets and keep shooting is a very clear reminder of the weight of life and how it easy it so to die for one’s values, something they should’ve done a long time ago and something they’re doing to other people. After all, at the core, this is a soldier’s tale.
Leandro Fernandez’s art is, as usual, exceptionally gorgeous. His line work, along with the bold coloring of Daniela Miwa, creates an all-inclusive world that sucks the reader in until the last page. His years of work reflect wonderfully in the work with thick, drop shadows, stunning silhouettes, and camera-quality angles. That transition between the beautiful and violent is done fluidly, drawing the eye carefully from one panel to the next. He draws in that perfect sweet spot between fine arts and comic illustration, something that is incredibly hard to pull off. Miwa’s colors are chosen carefully to reflect whatever scenery and time of day that particular panel is set in, which only enhances the experience. It’s really good, is what I’m saying.
Check out Old Guard #1 from Image Comics. It’s super cool. Out now!