Review: The Old Guard: Tales Through Time Vol. 1

Authors: Greg Rucka, Ayala Vita, Brian Michael Bendis, Kelly Sue DeConnick, Matt Fraction, Jason Aaron, David F. Walker, Eric Trautmann, Dave Walker, Robert Mackenzie, Alejandro Arbona
Artists: Jacopo Camagni, Leandro Fernandez, Mike Henderson, Valentine De Landro, Justin Greenwood, Taki Soma, Michael Avon Oeming, Matthew Clark, Steve Lieber, Kano, Rafael Alburquerque
Publisher: Image Comics
Released: December 21st, 2021
Received: Edelweiss
Warnings: Graphic imagery, death

The characters of the hit series (and Netflix show) The Old Guard return in The Old Guard: Tales Through Time Vol. 1. If short stories and vignettes are your thing, then you’re absolutely going to love this collection.

Here’s the backstory necessary to appreciate these tales: the characters in the Old Guard don’t die. Technically, there may come a day where they stop getting back up, but the simple truth is that they never know when that moment might happen. They walk the earth for centuries, doing what they can to leave their mark on the world (for good or for ill, that’s up to you to decide).

Obviously, immortal characters have seen and been through a lot. Not all of them have pasts that they are proud of. Andy is the oldest of the group, several thousand years old (no exaggeration there), while Nile is the youngest, only twenty-seven.

My Mother’s Axe

The first story in this anthology is My Mother’s Axe, by Greg Rucka and Leandro Fernandez. Given that this is the original team behind the series, it probably is no surprise to hear that this is one of the best stories. It’s the tale of Andy’s axe – and the transformation it has withstood over the centuries.

There’s something so beautiful and poignant about the discussion that arises in this issue. It’s essentially The Old Guard‘s version of the Ship of Theseus, with some solid emotional attachments thrown into the mix for good measure.

Zanzibar and Other Horrors

Next up is Zanzibar and Other Horrors by Andrew Wheeler and Jacopo Camagni. Camgagni is an artist I fell in love with throughout Nomen Omen, so I was delighted to see that name pop up here!

This tale focuses on Nicky and Joe (those would be their modern names, of course, not the names they were born with) and is set in Berlin, 1932. There’s a lot to unpack from this story, as there’s a lot of commentary (both historical and modern) woven into the narrative.

Daniela Miwa was the colorist for both of the above stories, and Jodie Wynne was the letterer.

Bonsai Shokunin

Bonsai Shokunin, by Kelly Thompson, Valentine De Landro, Rebecca McConnell, and Jodi Wynne, is the third story in this collection. This story felt…weighted. You can really feel the weight an unwilling soldier carries through life, even at the end of his days.

It also feels like there’s a message woven into the story here, and it resonates with something Andy has said. Blood begets blood.

Strong Medicine

There’s something about Strong Medicine that is stuck in my brain. It’s been a minute since I read this graphic novel, and it’s still bouncing around inside my head. Eric Trautmann, Mike Henderson, Daniela Miwa, and Jodie Wynne are the ones behind this tale, and I love them for it.

The year is 1870, in Colorado. What happens to a small town when there’s no real sense of law, and one man is letting his grief tear apart the town? (Quite literally, as the case may be). Well, in the world of The Old Guard, somebody shows up to handle things.

Passchendaele

Passchendaele is a story that offers a look at Andy through a wholly different lens. It’s easy to see Andy as a warrior – the woman who will always get up and fight. It may be harder to picture her taking a role other than the hero (or killer) in somebody’s life.

Yet that is what happened here, as at least once, Andy was unable to walk away from an orphan she found many years ago. Thanks to Brian Michael Bendis, Michael Avon Oeming, Taki Soma, and Jodi Wynne for offering this perspective.

Lacus Solitudinis

Booker and Nicky are on a mission to confront a careless (and homophobic) officer in Lacus Solitudinis. Created by Robert Mackenzie, Dave Walker, Justin Greenwood, Daniela Miwa, and Jodie Wynne, this story, in particular, felt very relevant.

There’s a bit more jumping around in this tale than in the others, as they’re trying to show us multiple perspectives to help us understand everything going on – and what it costs the characters involved.

How to Make a Ghost Town

There are no two ways about it, How to Make a Ghost Town is a heavy-hitting story. Created by Matt Fraction, Steve Lieber, Daniela Miwa, and Jodi Wynne, this one isn’t afraid to hit readers right where it hurts.

In other words, it hits us in Andy’s past. It’s a more recent story and one that readers of the main series will be familiar with. I think that’s what makes it hurt so much. Well, that and the guilt and Anger Andy must have felt.

Love Letters

Next, we have Love Letters, created by David F. Walker, Matthew Clark, Rebecca McConnell, and Jodi Wynne. Set in Pennsylvania, 1863 – it’s pretty easy to figure out what all the fighting is about. Though with The Old Guard, naturally, there’s a bit of a twist.

It’s pretty fascinating to get a glimpse into how the team felt about this particular moment in time – I feel like this was a necessary story for that very reason.

An Old Soul

An Old Soul is the second to last story in this collection, created by Jason Aaron (love him), Rafael Alburquerque, Daniela Miwa, and Jodi Wynne. This one actually gets a bit…weird? Yeah, strange is a good description for it.

It does a great job of showing what can happen to our spirits and minds after long enough. It’s a subject that has come up time and time again in the series. The biggest difference this time is the character we’re focusing on…and his choice of handling things.

Never Gets Old

Last but certainly not least, there’s Never Gets Old by Alejandro Arbona, Kano, Daniela Miwa, and Jodi Wynne. There’s a lot of interesting commentary in here, much of it understated. Maybe it’s just me, but I felt a lingering sense of dread when reading this story.

We can all picture how badly it would go when one of The Old Guard told their family the truth – thus; I kept waiting for that hat to drop. I’m sure it did, but I’m happy that we didn’t see it (to the extent that I feared) here.

Thanks to Image Comics and #Edelweiss for making this book available for review. All opinions expressed are my own.

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