Publisher: Image Comics
Writer: Greg Rucka
Artist: Leandro Fernández
Release Date: 22nd February, 2017
A new creator-owned comic from Greg Rucka always generates excitement. His ongoing title Lazarus is a personal favourite, and Black Magick was one of the stand-out titles of 2016. In 2017, Rucka is introducing us to The Old Guard. It’s a story about four friends; friends who, for reasons unknown, cannot die. So, in the best A-Team tradition they decide to help out those in need of their services. Unfortunately. the trouble with the information age is that it gets harder and harder to stay hidden.
The story opens on the leader of the group – Andy – and we’re thrown straight into the reality of who she is. Sick to death of life, she has disassociated herself from personal interactions. I guess after all this time it’s easier to just not care (and yet, as we discover, there are some things she does care about). Andy’s introduction then threads to the rest of the group discussing a potential job. I immediately leapt to memories of ‘The Losers’ when reading the team dialogue, so we’re off to a good start.
The writing is tight and there is an immediate sense of familiarity in the interaction between this troupe. They know how each other work and it’s accepted. It’s fun, in a way. Andy screws around with other people, is too long in the tooth to be bothered learning how to use a smartphone, and is unquestionably in charge. Nicky is the tech-savvy member and it looks like there is some running humour in the story over this. The Luddite and the technophile.
The start of the issue centres around the group discussing whether to take on a contract. The contact for this job is one the group has worked for before so they are going to refuse it. That is until Andy finds out it’s involving the abduction of children and she agrees they will take it on (she does care, see). Of course, the job doesn’t turn out to be that simple…
The story itself overall is a wee bit pedestrian, but not bad. I had the feeling that it was too easy a read, and it didn’t quite grip me the way that Black Magick or Lazarus did with their debuts. I realise those comparisons are a big ask, but when you’ve set your personal bar so high, as Rucka clearly has, it’s natural that readers will you come to expect it with every new title. In saying that, this is still a Greg Rucka creation and it features a polished and well finished script. Indeed, the issue ends on quite the cliff-hanger and it is worth taking the time to get there.
Leandro Fernández (THE DISCIPLINE) is an interesting artist. There is a lazy quality to his drawing that is very engaging. I’m not sure if minimal is an apt way to describe it – stylised is probably a better term. There is a very exact amount of detail used, which leaves some pleasing use of negative space. Heavy application of block shadow work helps being emphasis and solidity to the art. It is also used to distinguish reality and memory at the beginning of the story in a way that’s both obvious and well-contrived. I enjoyed devouring both it and the colours of Daniela Miwa (DOC SAVAGE). Daniela’s pastel colours on Leandro’s art are a highlight for me. Most of the colour work is mixtures of blues, purples and oranges and it’s fantastic to look at. There is a level of production to The Old Guard that is significant – something to do with the weapons. Why else would they be front and centre on every issue cover teased so far? I guess time will tell.
Nonetheless, in the end I can’t help but feel a bit deflated after reading The Old Guard. I know I probably shouldn’t be. There are elements from ‘The Losers’ and ‘We(l)come Back,’ here – two titles I love – as well as a hefty A-Team vibe in the mix. Everything I see tells me that I should be prostrating myself to Image, begging for the next issue. Yet I’m not. I will be reading on, thought. I’m not idiot enough to dismiss this after one issue, and the ending has forced open an interesting quandary for the team. Plus I want to know more about these guys, so yeah; in that respect this issue has worked.
I recommend The Old Guard, if not for the excellent art, then for the promise of what’s to come. Just reign in your Rucka-level expectation for issue one and you’ll be fine. It’s a good start, but it’s not quite a great start.
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The writer of this piece was: Andrew McGlinn
Andrew Tweets from @Jockdoom.