The Old Guard (#1 – 5) – Greg Rucka

4 out of 5

Dang man, its been a while since Rucka has written some straight-up slam-bang thriller/action stuff, and It’s good to be back.  Old Guard still has its high-level concept – said slam-bang thrilling action is perpetrated by five (mostly) immortal persons – but this isn’t the expansive world of Lazarus or the more clearly genre approach of Stumptown or The Veil; it’s fun-as-hell blockbuster material, sprinkled with the magic touch of Rucka forethought and pretty great characters.

Four long-living folks, ranging from a couple millenia old to a couple centuries – and soon to pick up a fifth before issue two is over, pass the time by taking on odd jobs (in which not-dying capabilities could be helpful) for various clients.  All of this is done without mention of their “gifts,” and clients are generally rotated before any questions can ne asked.  The current op is a rescue mission, initiated by ex-CIA spook Copley… only when the guard get to where they’re going, they discover that their secret is out, and then we’re given our own gift of four issues of ass kicking as our leads get to the bottom of how this happened.

Led by the elder ‘Andy’ – admittedly sort of the Rucka template of the terse, sex-positive female – our narration occasionally gets some pondering on the nature of life, and what happens when you extend that life without a clear end.  We have heard the majority of this before, in any other book, comic or movie featuring an immortal, but Rucka doesn’t push it much beyond setting the emotional stage, falling back on his strong character work and the action to carry things, which it certainly does.

…Because of a fantastic art team of Leandro Fernandez and colorist Daniela Miwa.  I’ve been a fan of Leandro’s since his work on Rucka’s Wolverine years back, and it’s amazing to see how far he’s pushed himself here: Using a variation on Miller-negative space, Fernando is unleashed on these layouts, with absolutely feral action and an excellent sense of emotion for the dialogue.  The next level is achieved by Miwa’s odd pastel color scheme: Pinks and blues and yellows that somehow work, and make the experience even more visceral.  Jodi Wynne sidles in with very naturalistic lettering, snaking her bubbles in to match Leandro’s lean lines.

While maybe not as densely plotted as Rucka’s current Lazarus, and toting some fairly obvious tropes like the rookie POV character, Rucka has been in the biz long enough to know how to deliver a streamlined – but still intelligent – action extravaganza.  Paired with gripping visuals, it’s a great comic book experience.