Review: The Old Guard #1

oldguard1coverThe Old Guard #1 is Highlander meets the modern world of private contractors as a group of immortals have banded together to be a Blackwater type group of mercenaries, but with a conscience it seems. Writer Greg Rucka and artist Leandro Fernandez kick the issue off with a deep look into the pain of the Old Guard’s only female member, Andromeda (Andy), before sending them headlong into action to rescue some hostages in South Sudan. Fernandez and colorist Daniela Miwa are unyielding when showing the violence of Andy and her team’s life as the issue erupts into a conflagration of guns, bullets, blood, brain matter, and yes, a battle axe.

The opening of The Old Guard reminded me a lot of the Queen song “Who Wants to Live Forever”, but with the bombast replaced with grit and pain. Miwa switches up the color palette on each panel to show the passing of time while Rucka and Fernandez connect sex and violence showing Andy’s various lovers and kill targets over the ages. She is caught in a vicious cycle and just wants something new or to break what has become tedium. Hopefully, a mission to rescue some young girls in South Sudan will break this up, but foreshadowing dialogue and a hyper-violent flashback to the Old Guard’s last mission for their client Copley in Afghanistan show that this isn’t a simple mission.

The action in The Old Guard reminded me of The Hurt Locker by way of the John Wick 2 films. There is kind of a dance like precision to Andy slashing through her foes with a battle axe, and her comrades taking targets out with well aimed sniper shots on the other side of the page. Fernandez and Miwa stuff the page with sound effects and panels stacked on panels to imitate the danger and intensity of real combat. Yeah, the Old Guard can take a barrage of bullets and still walk out alive because they’re immortals, but there are forces beyond soldiers and guns at odds against at them that Rucka and Fernandez hint at the end of the story.

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The Old Guard #1 is a story about the futility of immortality told through the lens of soldiers. And a soldier, especially a mercenary like Andy, is a good choice because she has seen the rise and fall of countless nations and ideologies and can truly ponder if there’s any meaning to it all. Except she spends most of the issue talking about her rescue mission and using military related jargon to ensure it runs smoothly while also avoiding the abyss of her existence. However, the abyss returns at the end of the story in a cynical bit of a twist that instantly expands the scope and mythos of the series. The Old Guard occasionally can be a lean action comic in the recent Warren Ellis tradition, especially with Fernandez and Miwa’s punch-y visuals, but it seems like it will have interweaving and complex storylines and mythologies like most of Rucka’s works, such as Wonder Woman, Lazarus, Black Magick, and even Stumptown albeit in a very different genre and setting.

The Old Guard #1 is a bleak, biting action comic about an immortal woman, who is a skilled warrior, yet filled with sadness drawn and colored with gritty precision by Leandro Fernandez and Daniela Miwa. Andy’s conscience, snark, and total competence make her a likable lead character, and a slight twist at the end sets up a decent enough hook to pick up the following issue where hopefully the other members of her team will be fleshed out by Greg Rucka and Fernandez.

Story: Greg Rucka Art: Leandro Fernandez Colors: Daniela Miwa
Story: 7.5 Art: 8.5 Overall: 8 Recommendation: Buy

Image Comics provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review

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