By Greg Rucka, Leandro Fernandez, Daniela Miwa, and Jodi Wynne.
Immortal soldiers, hot femme fatale lead, cool engrossing plot to expose the immortal soldiers for an unknown gain… check, check, and check! You get all of this and more in The Old Guard #1, a new title from Image. This book sets out to tell a story about a concept that may be a little over done, immortal soldiers (Wolverine, Bloodshot, yeah we already got some of those), but it takes this familiar concept and gives us a fresh perspective. They are sick and bored with life, passing time by seeking out thrills through extreme violence and casual sex. This is all fun and games as they pass through the ages and become legends, mere old wives tales with impossible truth as they pass from region to region. However, with this story being set in modern time, there are a lot of modern advances that can give proof to their existence.
Greg Rucka (Wolverine, Wonder Woman, and Queen and Country) is a pretty big deal in comics. With a few Eisner awards under his belt, we can assume he knows what he’s doing when it comes to crafting a story. The Old Guard is the second pairing of Rucka with artist Leandro Fernandez (Queen and Country), and the two really complement one another in terms of the balance between showing through art versus telling through dialogue and captions. The story takes time in the introductory panels that are used as a sort of background page to show not only time lapse, but also the ever-increasing boredom and tediousness that comes along with being immortal.
The art from Fernandez has a noir feel with lots of shadowing and dark and dreary colors from Miwa throughout. There are a lot of heavy shadows and use of purples and dark colors usually reserved for villains, which leaves the readers unsure about the morality and motives of our immortal soldiers; Andy, Nicky, Joe, and Booker. Rucka carefully introduces them, with little room to show their true intentions beyond finding relief from the boredom of immortality. There is some light shed on them as they accept a case with truly altruistic motivations, but this same case could also be their own downfall.
While this book has a great foundation to build a series on with intriguing characters, a giant twist to keep the reader invested, and compelling action from page to page, there is still room for improvement. The art on some pages feels sparse when more panels could have been incorporated and often the page was filled with either giant white spaces or action words. The misuse of space was either intentional to give the action more intention and importance, or was an oversight from lack of time. Either way, this lack of creative space being used to flesh out action sequences misses some key moments that could make this story that much more compelling and easier to follow. At times during the action panels, it does become hard to distinguish which character is which, and what is happening.
The Old Guard #1 seems to have plenty tricks up its sleeves to come. With acclaimed writer Greg Rucka and artist Leandro Fernandez behind the wheel this book has the right people to get it where it needs to go. Yeah, there’s some cleaning up needed around the art to make it more cohesive, but that cannot take away from the original story delivered from Rucka. His ability to deliver a familiar comic trope with a new insight and fresh perspective keeps this book from feeling recycled and not necessary.