Queen & Country: Blackwall (#13 – 15) – Greg Rucka

4 out of 5

Q&C employed a lot of different artists with a lot of different styles during its relatively short run, and while I like a of those guys and gals, an artist I normally don’t like turned out to be, by my opinion, one of the best fits: Jason Alexander.  Alexander uses a loose, sketchy style that has never blended too fluidly with the scripts with which I’ve seen him matched; turns out he’s pretty excellent at body language, though, which Greg gives him plenty of, with his splashy inking style perfect for the sudden flashes of violence throughout.  His abilities as a painter also allow for a distinct look for select scenes – meant to be captured on video – and lend those scenes the taint of ‘lewdness’ they’re intended to offer to potential viewers of said video: a sexual tryst featuring a business magnate’s daughter being used as blackmail to secure a deal.

‘Twas early 2003, when sex tapes still seemed to matter (we’ve got much worse to deal with nowadays, alas), and Crocker’s away on meetings, allowing Tara to tackle this matter as a sort of ‘favor’ for maintaining the business magnate’s relationship with her country, though it’s not all as cold as that – Greg makes it clear that the man is doing this for his daughter, first and foremost.

Blackwell perfectly pairs this with the sorta relationship happening ‘tween Ed and Chase, which she breaks off when she realizes he’s getting serious.  The script does the majority of this through the barest of dialogue or discussions-as-seen-through-shop-windows, and it’s quite perfect, although Greg the Moralist rears his head (via Tara’s fists) on the sex video perpetrators quite viciously, and while I’m not saying their beating isn’t deserved, it feels slightly like overkill for what’s just an information-exchange type mission, and it’s not quite mapped to Chase as a way of dealing with her lingering Ed-feelings.  It more just seems like: these guys are perverts who exploit women!  Beat ’em!  (Again, not saying it’s undeserved, more that Greg was very black and white with this kind of stuff earlier in his career.)

These are truly just the briefest moments in an otherwise excellent, tightly scripted and crisply arted three issue arc.