"There's a trick, they teach it to you at the School. When someone pulls a gun on you, they say...charge at him like a bloody lunatic... It's the last thing they expect and most of them can't hit water from a submarine anyway...and repeat to yourself over and over that you're doing this for Queen and Country." — Tara Chace, "Operation: Broken Ground"
A comic book written by Greg Rucka about a group of spies in the Special Operations Section of the SIS called the Minders. The main character is Tara Chace, Minder Two. The series is known for a few things: the ridiculous amount of research Rucka does for each issue, the series similarity to The Sandbaggers, and just how realistic the whole thing is.Characters in the series are:
Tara Chace: Main character and most often narrator. Beautiful, foul-mouthed, and very good at what she does. She starts the series as Minder Two.
Tom Wallace: Minder One and the most senior Minder in the Pit (twelve years, which is very good considering how dangerous the job is).
Ed Kittering: Minder Three and the most junior member. Still a little wet-behind-the-ears and has a crush on Tara.
Paul Crocker: Director of Operations (D-Ops), the head of the Minders division, the Cynical Mentor to the entire team. He also cares very deeply about his operatives, but is perfectly willing to send them to their deaths if he has no other choice.
Donald Weldon: Deputy Chief of Service, Crocker's boss. Gets into plenty of arguments with Crocker, but often backs him up.
C: Chief of Service, everybody's boss, who ends up as Francis Barclay. Most often, he's the Obstructive Bureaucrat.
The first series has finished with 32 issues, three prequel volumes, and three novels. A second series is in the works to come out sometime in 2014 according to Word of God. Operation: Broken Ground was the first published, but chronologically, they go:
Queen & Country Declassified Volume 1 (Paul Crocker's backstory)
Queen & Country Declassified Volume 2 (Tom Wallace's backstory)
Queen & Country Declassified Volume 3 (Nick Poole's backstory)
Cold Sniper: Subverted - Tara is sent to murder a Russian mobster with a sniper rifle. She does the job cleanly and without hesitation, but afterward drinks heavily and engages in other forms of self-abuse.
Dead Guy Junior: Tara has an affair with Tom in A Gentleman's Game, and she names the resulting child Tamsin, which is a shortened version of Thomasina
Dirty Business: All of the Minders are called on to do terrible things; none of them feel good about it. Much of the series shows Tara's resulting self-abuse and struggle with the psychological aftermath. (Ironically, stone-cold killers are the last thing Crocker wants for agents.)
Doctor Callard: You sent her to Kosovo to shoot a man in cold blood. You wouldn't want her in the Section if that didn't bother her.
Downer Ending: A few times, things...don't end well. A Gentleman's Game ends with Tom Wallace dead. Private Wars ends with the chessmaster of recent atrocities as President of Uzbekistan while Tara has to sacrifice more of her own soul to shoot the vengeful husband of the woman who'd been raped, tortured, and murdered at that President's behest to preserve stability in the region. In front of his own son. Only that Tara's daughter is waiting back home for her gives this a glint of light.
Expy: The series as a whole has a lot in common with The Sandbaggers, but most characters are different in various significant ways. Most. Paul Crocker and Tom Wallace are obviously modeled on Neil Burnside and Willie Caine, respectively.
Post-9/11 Terrorism Movie, Real Life Writes the Plot: The series started just a few months before the terrorist attacks of September 11th. Crystal Ball takes a few pages to show the cast's immediate reaction to the event, and the consequences immediately start turning up in the plot.
Retirony: Tom Wallace goes to teach and then bites it in A Gentleman's Game.
Spiritual Successor: To The Sandbaggers. Rucka is not shy about acknowledging that he borrowed the structure of SIS and many of the character elements, though there are significant divergences - The Sandbaggers dealt largely with the realpolitik of the Cold War while Queen and Country mostly deals with the complexity of intelligence operations in a post-9/11 world, Rucka's D. Ops is happily married with kids, and most significantly, The Sandbaggers set their D. Ops as the protagonist, while Queen and Country primarily follows the character arc of one of the field agents.
Spy Fiction: Definitely, extremely in the Stale Beer category.
Stray Shots Strike Nothing: Averted. Tara Chace is ambushed by two goons with guns while unarmed. She rushes one, makes it within hand-to-hand range before he can hit her, and takes him down. After which she discovers that one of his shots hit the other one.
The Spymaster: Paul Crocker, of course. Also Angela Cheng, the CIA Station Chief in London. Paul once jokes that at least a quarter of the staff at Security Services (MI-5) headquarters is on the CIA payroll. Given Angela's level of knowledge regarding what the Special Section is up to, this may not be entirely a joke.
There Are No Therapists: Averted, there is one (nicknamed "the Madwoman of the Second Floor") but due to the nature of their work, there's little she can do to help agents besides patch them up so they can return to the field and get demolished again...
Unfunny Background Event: In Morningstar, the in backgrounds of two consecutive panels are a beggar with no hands bothering an agent, and then the same beggar being beaten up by the Taleban.