The Old Guard #3, by Greg Rucka and Leandro Fernández, ramps up the mystery surrounding our immortal heroes while also providing some deeper insight into their long lives. It is another entry in what is shaping up to be another excellent Rucka book.
Writer: Greg Rucka
Artist: Leandro Fernandez
Publisher: Image Comics
This issue picks up where #2 left off, at the group’s compromised safe house. After a brutal fight, Nile, Andy and Booker are able to escape and set out to rescue Nicky and Joe. The two have been captured and are being brought to Copley’s mysterious backer, whom we met last issue.
Rucka does a great job balancing action with character development in this issue. It opens with Booker’s backstory, where we learn about his time in Napoleon’s army. I feel like this sort of device is common with long-lived or immortal characters, that they were a key part in some historically significant event. What I like about Rucka’s take is that the characters are never a central figure. None of them turned the tide of war or saved humanity. I think it makes the character’s immortality maybe even more tragic. These people live “forever,” for what? What really is their impact?
The sequence where Booker talks about leaving loved ones behind gets even further into the tragedy of immortality. It’s a really moving monologue about how people get jealous and turn against them, only to die, leaving the immortals with tainted memories. It’s a powerful idea, and one that is kind of haunting. Rucka balances these heavy ideas with a dose of something more uplifting when he focuses on Nicky and Joe. Joe delivers an impassioned speech to their captors on the mens’ relationship. Where Booker and Andy’s immorality stripped them of meaningful relationships, it has developed something far deeper than typical love between Joe and Nicky. Maybe being immortal isn’t that bad when you meet the right person to spend your time with.
Fernández’s art is awesome. His slightly exaggerated style seems familiar, I can’t quite put my finger on it, but it is full of personalty. His pencils shine particularly in the action scene in the safe house. It is just off-the-walls energetic. There are bullet lines, big sound effects, dynamic poses, strong shadows. The sequence just hums, it’s great. Finally, Fernández continues to make use of two things that I loved about the first two issues: excellent panel layouts, and ample two-page spreads. The panel usage in the safe house sequence really contributes to the scene’s energy, and the spreads really allow Fernández to render some pretty scenes.
The Old Guard is still a young series, but it is proving to have an interesting, unique, mostly tragic take on immortality. This book, with its strong female protagonist, gritty realism, and espionage/detective feel, seems to be right in Greg Rucka’s wheelhouse. Add in some fantastic art, and it’s a great house to be in.