The Old Guard #1
Art: Leandro Fernández
Colors: Daniela Miwa
Letters: Jodi Wynne
The Old Guard introduces its familiar premise with the famous words once uttered by General Douglas MacArthur, “Old soldiers never die, they just fade away.” The comic takes only the first part of that sentence literally. Andromache “Andy” of Scythia and her comrades in arms Nicky, Joe, and Booker are immortal warriors. They don’t understand the underlying cause of their immortality. But they do not age. Knowing nothing else than how to fight, the quartet has participated in numerous battles, and have yet to die from their wounds. Rather than fading away, they’re imprisoned in a self-imposed hell they don’t seem to be capable, or all that interested, in escaping.
This latest cynical take on human nature from Greg Rucka begins with Andy engaging in sexual intercourse. This scene is quickly overwhelmed by a montage illustrating the many past occasions of Andy repeatedly fighting and fornicating through the centuries. But she constantly frets over two things: She fears about what could possibly terminate her immortality. But she’s already so beaten down by the cyclical nature of her existence that she craves an end to it. “So goddamn tired of life.” Andy intones. “Of going through the motions, of killing time.”
It’s an efficient enough layout, if not the most compelling approach, from Leandro Fernández. The use of deep shadows and silhouettes accompanied by deep, flat tones by Daniela Miwa reminded me of the house style that would come to dominate the Vertigo imprint in the late 90s. In short, it’s a little muddy at times. Fernández is on shakier ground when it comes to character design. Andy’s appearance is fairly generic as an attractive brunette. Nicky, Joe, and Booker are somewhat nondescript. They’re almost background characters.
But Rucka dispenses with individual characterization and moves right into the A-plot. The setup is pretty current to the “War on Terror.” The four immortals are private contractors who seem to to be regularly sought after by western intelligence agencies for their services. The assignment they accept is reminiscent to the real world events involving the 2014 Boko Haram kidnapping of schoolgirls. And then there’s the intersecting B-plot, which involves a female soldier who is part of the US forces deployed in Afghanistan. It’s apparent from her actions that she’ll eventually run into Andy, probably in the next issue.
Needless to say, things go sideways for the immortals. And the issue’s cliffhanger suggests that they’ll be forced to serve at the behest of some shady organization in the near future. But if the basic theme is a little time-worn, the fantastic elements mixing with the present political context could prove to be intriguing.