“War never takes the wicked man by chance, the good man always.”— Sophocles, Philoctetes
Soldiers Live. They Wonder Why.
The concept of The Old Guard, sketched out in the exposition and then built upon throughout, is that everyone dies — just for some, their time hasn’t come yet.
The soldiers in this group aren’t immortal, they’re simply not dead yet, and that’s what elevates this from origin story to something more akin to fate — it’s time that’s getting longer instead of running out, and it’s as unpredictable as death has always been and will be. What binds them is war, is knowing that everyone they love will die, is that they will never know which bullet is going to be the last. They get torn apart and put themselves back together, until they don’t. They love and they lose and they search for purpose. They find each other in their dreams, and sometimes they find dreams in each other’s hearts.
Leader, Bi/Pan & Tired
Andy is the oldest of the group: six thousand years and counting. She lies, a lot. She’s learnt not to let her heart dictate her head, or so she says. It’s betrayal and loss that show her, in Book One, that perhaps what she needs is a reason to live — rather than to finally find a way to die. According to herself, she’s “slept her way through entire populations,” and not only is that dead impressive (heh), but a way of whiling the days away without having to think too much about how wasting time as a concept stops mattering so much when you’ve seemingly got all the time in the world.
Nile, the Newbie
Nile, formerly of the United States Marines, is the newest recruit, so to speak. She is dropped into a veritable mess, with a handler going rogue and working for someone who’s best described as a greedy insert-worst-insult-you-can-think-of, and one of their own working for the enemy. She reminds Andy that a moment wasted is one you can’t get back, and that making the best of the time you’re given is important even when you have too much of it — enough for a thousand lifetimes, maybe.
She was as fascinated with the Queen as her husband was, only at the time she had no eyes to see, it seems. But the Queen did, and now she’s come to ask her back. It’s the beginning of an adventure, preluded by yearning made all the more palpable by the distance between Janet and Tam that they only manage to bridge a few times. But when they do, these moments are sweet and speak of a true bond. He accepts her decision as she does his: a mark of a love that is true enough, if not for time and fate. But Janet will go with the Queen, and fulfill her destiny at her side — and hopefully have all of the excellent sex, because that dream was obviously hot.
Joe & Nicky
Enemies to Friends to Lovers, Established Relationship
Joe and Nicky are the couple of the group, and their love story hits all the delicious trope buttons, in the best way. I’d read a hundred oneshots just about how they found a home in each other, forever. They started out on opposite sides of the First Crusade, as Nicolo and Yusuf, and when they realised they couldn’t keep each other dead, they moved on together; and eventually they fell in love. When they are caught and trapped, Joe delivers the most heartfelt declaration ever (and those are especially wonderful when the characters are under fire) both to Nicky and the soldiers taunting them. They’ve been together for centuries, Nicky knows. But Joe pulls even fewer punches with his feelings than he does with his fists, and it’s glorious.
Also, directly after they fuck everyone up into a tangled, bloody mess, and I love them so much.
Joe’s the big spoon, by the way.
Angst Essen Seele Auf
Booker — Sébastien, formerly of the Napoleonic Invasion of Russia — died strung up as a deserter in the cruel winter of St Petersburg, where Napoleon’s army went to die. He had the good sense to wait for his company to move on after they hanged him… for three days. It was just no time to die, and Booker has had perhaps the hardest time dealing with it. He’s the one who reached out to his family, who lost them one by one. They all died hating him, and it’s made Booker a different kind of bitter. His punishment is loneliness, and it’s the biting kind. He doesn’t live like Andy, seeking distractions, he doesn’t have anyone the way Joe and Nicky have each other. He’ll be searching for a while.
My girlfriend recommended this to me last year, and I didn’t get around to reading it until now — just in time for the Netflix movie, though!! We are so ridiculously excited to be gatekeepers 😝 no, obviously I’m kidding, we just wanna get as many people as possible watching it. One, because hopefully it’ll be good, and two, because we need fic 😩 I love watching a new fandom bloom around a thing I enjoy, and I’m hoping it’ll happen here. Until then, I wholeheartedly recommend this volume, with gorgeous art and lettering (that Issue One cover, I DIE) and excellent writing and characterisation. Each one of them is drawn, literally and figuratively, with attention to detail and to fleshing out their motivations and intentions and backstories, and I loooove them. Absolutely pick it up, if you haven’t already!