Andronika the Scythian, “Andy” to her friends, has been a soldier of fortune for a very, very long time now. She’s not immortal, she just hasn’t found the right time to die yet. Same goes for her comrades Booker, who lived through Napoleon’s march into Russia, Joe and Nicky, both veterans on opposite sides of the First Crusade. While they’ve been able to keep their long lives secret from the world at large so far, it’s something that has become increasingly difficult in the modern age. So when a former CIA spook gets proof of their invulnerability and gives it to his contracted pharma bro boss, Andy and her comrades’ life gets a lot more difficult in a hurry. If that wasn’t bad enough, they’ve also started having dreams of another one of their kind. A female marine stationed in Afghanistan who’s about to learn all of the good and bad of her new life in a hurry.
“The Old Guard” does deal in the requisite long-life is a burden schtick where our protagonists bemoan their state and wish that it could be over more than anything else. This could’ve been tiresome, but writer Greg Rucka does a great job of making you fully invested in Andy’s interesting life and history. More than that, he along with artist Leandro Fernandez have delivered a terrifically entertaining action-adventure story where some real professionals show why they’re not to be messed with. There’s less moral relativism here compared to Rucka’s previous works (see “Lazarus”) but that actually feels somewhat refreshing here. Particularly with the wonderfully hateable villain of this volume.
It’s also good to see Fernandez working on a series that’s worthy of and plays to his talents. As seen in the four volumes of “Punisher MAX” he worked on with Garth Ennis, the artist is a consummate pro when it comes to delivering exciting gunfights. Of which there are many in this volume. His style for characters does trend towards caricature, which I find appealing here but can understand if other people aren’t so hot for it.
This first volume is also very self-contained. If it weren’t for the whole “Book One” business, I’d have no problem assuming that it was just a six-issue miniseries. It does leave me with a cast of characters I’d like to see more of. So while there may not be an obvious through-line to their next adventure, I’ll be there for whatever the future has in store for “The Old Guard.”