Greg Rucka writes good action stories, he writes strong women, and he even wrote a good screenplay adapting his own work in a recent Netflix action film. Said movie was for The Old Guard, a series he wrote for Image Comics about a group of soldiers who, for reasons even they don’t understand, cannot die.
I covered Book One a while back, and now, finally, Book Two is out, subtitled Force Multiplied.
The second volume picks up not long after the first ended. Andy is leading the others on various missions while Booker is exiled from the rest for his betrayal of the group to the wider world. The thing is, none of these people know why they can’t seem to die. The first volume noted that there may be ways since there were others that don’t seem to be around anymore, most notably a woman named Noriko, someone who was very special to Andy once upon a time. Noriko was lost at sea and presumably drowned.
That…isn’t entirely right. Yes, Noriko drowned, but the way these people’s bodies work, she just woke up again and again until she was able to get to the surface from the bottom of the ocean. That took a very long time, and drowning over and over again didn’t leave her in the sanest of moods. So, while Andy and her group have been using their knowledge and skills for the greater good, she’s been doing more or less the opposite by building up a criminal empire in secret. Or it was a secret until she decided to go on a recruiting job, starting with Booker. Booker, to his credit, isn’t all that interested, but he’s perhaps not the one Noriko really wants after all.
No, the big prize is Andy.
Rucka has, as a writer, really thought immortality out. Andy is the oldest of these soldiers, and she was never told why this happened any more than the others were told. She’s seen all manner of atrocities over the millennia, and it does wear a person down after a while. Much of what Noriko does isn’t much offer a physical threat to the Guard. After all, what can threaten people who can’t really die? No, instead she threatens them by suggesting that deep down, people aren’t worth it. Newcomer Nile isn’t ready to believe that while Joe and Nicky have each other and Booker had his research. But what does Andy have? Will Andy join Noriko willingly if she thinks there really is nowhere else for her to go?
And what if all she really wants to do is to finally die?
I really dig how Rucka asks these big questions, showing Andy as a jaded woman who just can’t take it anymore. She’s far older than she looks, tired, and Noriko’s return suggests that maybe nobody, not even Andy, is really worth a damn after all. Sure, Nile and the men of the group don’t seem to believe that, but does Andy? That’s perhaps the big question that comes up when this volume ends with the promise of a final storyline in Book Three.
That said, I am still not a huge fan of artist Leandro Fernandez’s work here. It still looks a bit too cartoony for my tastes for a story like this, but it didn’t bug me as much as the first volume did.
9 out of 10 one night stands by necessity.