In The Old Guard: Tales Through Time #2 from Image Comics, twin tales of battles of yore present an old Japanese soldier with a dilemma, and in the Old West, the search for a doctor involves the deaths of…well, find out in your next mighty Major Spoilers review!

THE OLD GUARD: TALES THROUGH TIME #2

Writers: Kelly Sue DeConnick & Eric Trautmann
Artists: Valentine De Landro & Mike Henderson
Colorists: Rebecca McConnell & Daniela Miwa
Letterer:  Jodi Wynne
Editor: Alejandro Arbona
Publisher: Image Comics
Price: $3.99
Release Date: May 26th, 2021

PREVIOUSLY IN THE OLD GUARD: The Old Guard, that group of immortals turned mercenaries, have fought together and apart down the ages of humanity’s addiction to violence and war.  While in the present day they take the big bucks to help those in need, back in the day, they were all finding their feet in a world that was constantly changing.  Now, in this mini series, we discover something of what made them tick at different points in history…

INTOXICATING

Wow.  I mean, really wow.  The Old Guard: Tales Through Time #2 is a stunning issue that tells two tales of the immortals who form the Old Guard, those eternal fighters who have appeared in human history since the dawn of time.  This issue has some fantastic storytelling, no doubt helped because of the condensed page count.  There’s not a wasted word or panel as the writers wring the very essence of their stories onto the page.  Each is alluring in its own way, with the level of writing, characterization and artwork off the charts.

‘Bonsai Shokunin’ is the first of the two tales in The Old Guard: Tales Through Time #2.  In it, a young soldier serves the shogun.  At first, he is an unwilling soldier, but blood calls to blood, and in time, he becomes an excellent killing machine, someone who can be relied upon to lead men into battle and kill again and again.  There is a fantastic motif that follows the reader through this story.  As the old soldier recounts his tale, he clips branches from a bonsai tree, and the metaphor, that this branch lives, while that branch does not, is an excellent summary of the men he did and did not kill.

Valentine De Landro’s art is understated, but not unforgettable.  In a story as short as this, a premium is placed on the artwork to do the heavy lifting, and De Landro doesn’t fail the reader.  Panel upon panel, images of war and death, interspersed with clipped twigs and branches from the bonsai tree, underline the central motif in this story.  I’ll leave it to the reader to ponder the final images, but this is a story that will linger long in the memory.

WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN?

Another of our immortal members of the Old Guard washes up in Gothic, Colorado, in late 1870.  This is silver mining country, where the only thing harder than the land are the men who dig deep within it in search of a fortune.  Our unnamed immortal takes the stagecoach in, while a narration in the form of telegrams (ask your great grandparents, kids!) gives a flavor of his thinking about the grand design, or lack thereof, that may or may not power the universe.

‘Strong Medicine’ by Eric Trautmann, with art by Mike Henderson, isn’t as visceral as the preceding story, but the through line is just as compelling.  Our protagonist is something of a philosopher, a wandering knight errant attempting to comprehend the world around him, from the vantage point of living an exceedingly long life.  The events in Gothic, however, soon undercut any sense that there is a plan at work in the universe.  Instead, it seems, everywhere there is chaos, with the hand of man at the tiller.

The Coyle brothers are hard drinking, hard charging men, thin of skin who have never overlooked a slight.  When the youngest brother Keenan has a mine fall on him, his older brother Eamon fixes to get him mended.  When the town doctor fails, he hangs him, and then kidnaps a miracle man, one of the thousands wandering the West selling literal snake oil to the rubes.  Things, as they say, turn bloody, quickly.

This is a fine story, one where our knight errant soon realises that man is not much better than the beasts of the field.  There is no higher authority than he, and with his gift of eternal life, who better to punish the wicked and ungodly.  ‘Strong Medicine’ is a very violent story, but our main character is forced to act, and when he does, it is with terminal prejudice.

BOTTOM LINE:  MORE, PLEASE!

I can’t speak too highly of The Old Guard: Tales Through Time #2.  The writing is top notch, full of character and verve.  The artwork rises to the challenge, leaning heavily into the violence that is at the heart of the series and its central characters, but done so beautifully you are left feeling guilty that you’re admiring such ghastly scenes of violence.


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The Old Guard: Tales Through Time #2

10.0 FANTASTIC!

Two tales that will stay with the reader long after they box this comic, The Old Guard: Tales Through Time #2 makes fantastic use of the loose anthology format to bring two diverse tales of action, violence and some interesting philosophical musings.

  • Writing 10
  • Art 10
  • Coloring 10
  • User Ratings (1 Votes) 8.2
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About Author

Romantic. Raconteur. Kangaroo rustler. Sadly, Rob is none of these. Rob has been a follower of genre since at least the mid-1970s. Book collector, Doctor Who fan, semi-retired podcaster, comic book shop counter jockey, writer (once!) in Doctor Who Magazine and with pretensions to writing fantasy and horror, Rob is the sort of fellow you can happily embrace while wondering why you're doing it. More of his maudlin thoughts can be found at his ill-tended blog https://robertmammone.wordpress.com/

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