OLD GUARD BOOK ONE: OPENING FIRE
Writer: Greg Rucka
Artist: Leandro Fernandez
Colorist: Daniela Miwa
Letterer: Jodi Wynne
On the surface, this series is about a group of immortal soldiers that live as mercenaries and exist in the shadows as the modern world keeps making it harder and harder for them to hide their existence. It’s an interesting premise that could be enough to hold a reader’s attention but at its core, it’s really about what it means to be human and the human experience in general through a much larger lens. This exploration of one’s humanity when extended to hundreds if not thousands of years is really what elevates and separates this series from others with a similar premise.
The group consists of 4 original members, the leader Andy, Nicky, Joe and Booker. As the series progresses, we find out that Andy or Andromache of Scythia has been alive for six thousand seven hundred and thirty-two years and seemingly over everything. Which seemingly is partially the point of the series. While we don’t get the whole picture of everything the crew has gone through, there are enough flashbacks and revelations to make it clear that so much of what they’ve all experienced has been great. Being immortal means losing everyone and anyone you care about, it means losing touch with modernity, it means forgetting more than you remember. It’s a hard existence and Rucka does a great job at pacing these flashbacks throughout these 5 issues to help sell the idea.
What is also interesting is that while much of their long lives have been very hard on them, the way it plays out varies from person to person. In particular, the romance between Nicky and Joe stands out because unlike Andy, they found themselves as they learned of their immortality. She had to endure years of solitude and various losses throughout her life while Nicky and Joe get to live out their immortal lives together. While at first hand it may seem convenient, Andy also alludes to how different romantic partnerships can be when extended to hundreds or thousands of years and one gets the impression that she had experienced lengths of fallout with romantic partners in her long life while Nicky and Joe seemingly manage to make it work.
The would be entry to this would for the reader is Nile and while she’s likable enough it seems odd to introduce a character that is also new to the world but have her be introduced so far into the series. The writing was already doing a fine job introducing Andy and her group of immortal soldiers well through context and flashbacks and while Nile’s inclusion does excuse some exposition, it doesn’t seem as necessary as in other stories. The examples that the others give Nile as advice and warnings does lead to some interesting backstories and flashbacks.
The art and colors by Leandro Fernandez and Daniela Miwa are absolutely gorgeous and a real stand out of this series. It’s a very European style that matches the globe trotting premise of the book very well. There are some scenic panels that are really stunning and the use of a simpler coloring manages to set the tone well while not overriding the art. There really nothing to complain about but some readers have been known to have a hard time following the action in some scenes.
Which leads to the only real complaint, the premise is fairly unoriginal and because of this I feel like many readers will go into this series thinking it’s something it’s not. Even though the main characters are soldiers, the action is really not the point as the majority of the series is played out in scenes with mostly conversation. The action and humor is used mostly to break up tension and infuse some fun to the story. With a Netflix movie coming soon, I worry that the same will happen with the film. Either the movie will miss the point or the viewers will as well.