Sunday, January 13, 2013

Queen & Country Definitive Edition Volume 01 - Greg Rucka, et al.

Queen & Country Definitive Edition Volume 01 (2001/2007)
Greg Rucka, artist
Steve Rolston, Brian Hurtt, Leandro Fernandez, artists
Trade paperback, 382 pages
Oni Press
ISBN 9781932664874

First things first: Thanks to my good friend John for recommending this series to me years ago.

Here are a few things you need to know about Greg Rucka’s Queen & Country Definitive Edition Volume 01 in the order you’ll encounter them:

This is a compact, thick, solid trade paperback that looks and feels “right” when you hold it, almost like holding a trade paperback novel in your hands, but with more weight. (On the negative side, the way the book is bound sometimes creates the challenge of reading text printed too close to the binding. Hate that.) 

Tim Sale’s cover art is not representative of the inside of the book, which is to take nothing away from either the work that is inside or Sale’s art. Sure, his covers are reproduced inside, but Sale does not draw any of the stories. That task falls to Steve Rolston, Brian Hurtt, and Leandro Fernandez, each of whom is part of an artistic creative team that takes on one of the three missions included here. (More on these guys in a minute.)

The book is in black and white. 

The writing is superb. If you enjoy intelligent, suspenseful espionage tales, you’ll love Queen & Country. Writer Greg Rucka not only creates a great real-world espionage thriller, but also manages to convey information in a way that doesn't insult the segment of his audience who knows world events as well as providing essential information to those who don't, all without stooping to "As you know, Bob..." tactics. 

The story takes place in the early 2000s, focusing mainly on Tara Chace, a Minder with the Special Ops division of Britain’s Secret Intelligence Service and the missions she undertakes. Tara is tough, independent, and knows how to get things done on and away from missions. She sort of reminds me of Battlestar Galactica’s Kara Thrace. Tara Chace. Kara Thrace. Similar name, similar appearance, similar characteristics.... Hmmm.....

Going into the plots and missions would not only be pointless, but would take away half the fun. I will say that readers who are used to gunfire and explosions on every page will no doubt be disappointed. Rather, readers who want to know about the ins and outs of Special Ops decisions and missions (although fictionalized), the tension of the missions, the reliance on what the SIS hopes to be reliable intelligence, and the challenges of the unknown - those readers will love Queen & Country.

The art style takes a pretty drastic turn in the last third of the book, as Fernandez’s exaggerated character features come close to being a serious distraction. Tara, previously drawn as a tough, unremarkable-looking fighter, in Fernandez’s hands becomes a provocative buxom bombshell. The other characters, good and bad, become almost grotesque in their facial features. This is a radical departure from what Rolsoton and Hurtt have established, yet Rucka's storytelling is rock solid and remains the driving force. Don't let the fact that the art changes drastically keep you from picking this one up. Highly recommended.