Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Comic Review: Queen and Country Vol. 1 & 2

I've had a lot of success in the past when reading comics written by Greg Rucka.  Rucka is one of the few writers, both inside and outside of the comics medium, who can write fantastic female lead characters.  This quality makes Rucka stand out from the crowd given the fact that well-depicted female leads can be hard to find in the comics medium.  However, Rucka has proven his skills in this area in the past with Kate Kane in Batwoman, Carrie Stetko in Whiteout, and Dex Parios in Stumptown.

With Queen and Country, Rucka has penned another engaging comic series where a female character takes center stage.  Queen and Country is an international espionage story that focuses on a British Intelligence team called the S.I.S., and much of the story centers around Tara Chace, one of the field operatives.  In this opening volume of the series, which collects three story arcs, an awesome twelve issues worth of material, the reader is introduced to the world of international espionage, and all the crazy politics, games - and the players that play them, and all the ins and outs that go into making a mission successful.

As a field operative, Chace's life is one of alternating dull boredom and inactivity, mixed with intense bouts of incredibly vital and stressful missions in the field.  While Chace is doing her thing in the field, her director of operations, the perpetually chain smoking Paul Crocker, is often walking a fine line between watching out for the safety of his team and dealing with all the political complications that are part of the international spy game.

Queen and Country impressed me as it felt like a very realistic take on what the international espionage game is really like.  You won't get tons of action, shooting, explosions, or cheesy villains, but instead the story focuses on the people, modern spy politics, and how the S.I.S. folks respond to situations that pop up.  As much as I've enjoyed Bond and Bourne films,  I found the stories in Queen and Country much more engaging and in the end, equally rewarding.

The first Definitive Edition contains three story arcs, and in each arc a different artist provides the visuals.  Steve Rolston, who impressed me before with his work on Ghost Projekt is first up on the art front, and he set the bar incredibly high with some fantastically detailed art.  Rolston's lines are incredibly clean, and his art is a joy to look at.  From there, on the second arc, the series rolled out another of my favorite comic artists, Brian Hurtt, of The Sixth Gun fame.  Sadly, I didn't get the trifecta of great art I was hoping for, as I wasn't a fan of Leandro Fernandez, who handled the art for the third arc.

Fans of the first Queen and Country volume will find plenty to like in the second volume as it delivers much of the same good as the first.  Rucka's writing is great, the stories are entertaining and engaging, and the art is again a mixed bag of artists which were sometimes good, sometimes not so good.  To be honest, I wasn't such a fan of the artists in this one, but the story was definitely good enough to carry me through despite the fact that this volume wasn't as easy on the eyes as the previous one.

Rucka's writing in this series is top notch.  Not only is each story arc interesting and engaging.  In many ways each story arc could be read as a stand-alone, which is a big reason why the alternating artist trick works pretty well for this series.  However, the arcs all connect as part of a larger tapestry.

That being said, I've found that the individual character arcs are what makes Queen and Country stand out as a fantastic series.  I've enjoyed following Tara Chace on missions, through her interactions with her colleagues, and her incredibly dreary personal life. She's one of those characters that I found myself thinking about during the interludes when I wasn't reading the book, and still find myself reflecting on even after turning the final page.  Additionally, the character arcs for the other primary S.I.S. team members are equally interesting and amazing.

Queen and Country stands out as one of the better comics I've read this year. The only real drawback being that because of the shifting artists, the art is inconsistent. So far, I'm 50-50 on whether I enjoyed the art  or not, which isn't exactly the best track record. However, when the art is good, it is really good.  In the end, I was still treated to a fantastic story where the focus is on well written, interesting, memorable characters.  More comics gold courtesy of Greg Rucka.

Grade: B+

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