The Old Guard debuted in 2017 with an initial five-issue miniseries. It told the story of (mostly) immortal warriors, rare men and women who had lived as long as 6,000 years waging war across all of the globe and recorded history with no knowledge of what might finally kill them. It was a brutally poetic meditation on human nature and how we, as a species, struggle to make sense of so many terrible choices and pointless conflicts. Now that deservedly acclaimed story returns for its second chapter in a planned trilogy from the original creative team of writer Greg Rucka and artist Leandro Fernandez, and it’s every bit as good as readers may recall.
The good news for readers who may not recall the original series is that this issue spends most of its space re-establishing the concept and delivering the compelling action sequences that make this series a compulsive reading experience. In addition to some introductory prose and an extended afterword that parse out the prior history of both the story and its conception, Force Multiplied #1 contrasts the earliest days of Andy with the present in two very different, but similarly spectacular, battles. This contrast of the old and the new makes it easy to learn (or recall) what the series is all about without requiring readers to dig out old issues.
What makes this issue function well as a #1, is also what hinders it as a continuation, though. It’s only in the final few pages that readers discover something new about these characters and their circumstances, something that’s primarily a tension-inducing cliffhanger rather than a substantive revelation. For the most part this installment emphasizes the surface-level appeal of The Old Guard and foregoes examining any of the internal conflicts or relationships that made meeting these immortals so compelling the first time around. While the final page offers plenty of promise for the remainder of Force Multiplied, it also makes this one issue feel unsubstantial for those already familiar.
That having been said, the surface-level appeal found in three distinctive action sequences has more to offer than most new comics on shelves any given week. Fernandez approaches each action scenario with a unique perspective. Battles from decades ago are chaotic affairs fleshed out with plenty of bodies and an impressive spread. Humans, horses, and an array of ancient weapons all provide a claustrophobic feeling entirely unlike the swift progression of events delivered in modern combat with automatic rifles and fast cars. The one clear connection between these and a shadow-laden battle at the end is the clear development of cause and effect across each sequence. There’s never a question as to how and why these conflicts are playing out, building and releasing tension in a fashion that makes it difficult to slow down when flipping through these pages.
The Old Guard: Force Multiplied #1 provides a prologue to a new story more than anything else. It confirms the status quo found at the end of the prior series and only begins to hint at how things might evolve from that moment in the last few pages. However, the status quo itself is shown to be amply engaging with action, perspective, and quips that thrill. It’s a welcome return and a reminder why this issue was so hotly anticipated by an existing readership, a readership likely to be even more excited for #2.
Published by Image Comics
On December 18, 2019
Written by Greg Rucka
Art by Leandro Fernandez
Colors by Daniela Miwa0comments
Letters by Jodi Wynne
Cover by Leandro Fernandez