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Comic Book / The Old Guard

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The Old Guard is a creator-owned Image Comics series by writer Greg Rucka (Lazarus, Black Magick) and artist Leandro Fernandez (Stormwatch: Post Human Division, Northlanders). The main character is Andromache of Scythia (she goes by "Andy"), a mercenary who has lived for millennia, along with her younger comrades-in-arms: two veterans of the First Crusade, Joe and Nicky, and the 'baby' of the bunch, Booker, a French soldier who fought for Napoleon.

Turns out, living in the modern era is a challenge none of the four envisioned, and staying hidden is becoming increasingly difficult as records become more comprehensive and social media becomes omnipresent. Tired from nearly endless fighting, Andy reluctantly agrees to do a second job for a former contact, intending to take some time off afterward. But things are not what they seem, and the old warrior has to deal with unexpected fallout, as well as the awakening of a new immortal, the first in nearly two hundred years.


A second volume, subtitled Force Multiplied, deals with the consequences of the first arc and sets up what Rucka says will be a third, final story, Fade Away.

Followed by an anthology, The Old Guard: Tales Through Time in 2021.

A film based on the first volume, directed by Gina Prince-Blythewood and starring Charlize Theron as Andy, was released on Netflix in 2020.

The Old Guard provides examples of the following tropes:

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     Volume 1 
  • Action Girl: Andy, Nile, and in the past, Noriko.
  • Adaptational Intelligence: Of a technological sort. Only Booker (the youngest of the group) has any understanding of modern technology (Andy barely knows how to use an old flip-phone, let alone a smart one). Nile realizes Booker is the mole when he's able to "gather" information off a laptop inside an underground bunker as Andy doesn't grasp that "just because you have a computer doesn't automatically mean you're on the Internet."
  • Adaptational Name Change: In the first issue, Andy says her real name is Andronika, but Rucka changed it to Andromache by the fifth.
  • The Alcoholic: According to Booker, Andy gets drunk most nights.
  • An Axe to Grind: Andy uses a labrys (a double-headed axe) in battle, in addition to her guns.
  • Artistic License – History: A flashback to Joe and Nicky's first meeting shows Nicky wearing the white robes and red cross of The Knights Templar. Neither that uniform nor the Knights Templar existed at the time of the First Crusade, when the flashback is supposed to take place.
  • The Baby of the Bunch: Nile is the youngest immortal, only experiencing her first death in the first issue at the age of twenty-seven. Booker, who fought under Napoleon, previously held this position, and is in his mid-200s.
  • Badass Crew: Four (later, five) immortals who between them are skilled with virtually every kind of weapon, along with centuries upon centuries of experience.
  • Battle Couple: Joe and Nicky - for a good few hundred years, too.
  • Bittersweet Ending: The already depressed Booker is cut off from the others for a century as punishment for his betrayal, but Andy has found new purpose in her life and is ready to guide the team in a more helpful direction.
  • Blessed with Suck: An immortal can survive virtually any form of injury or death, but they still feel the wound and recovery. And one day, their immortality may just stop working, meaning they die permanently.
  • Body Horror: The immortals can be literally have chunks shot out of them and stay upright, as long as their heart or brain aren't hit, which will down them for a while.
  • Boom, Headshot!: Subverted. Andy shoots Nile in the head when she first tries to escape. Being immortal, it doesn't take.
  • Brought Down to Normal: Each immortal knows that at one point or another, it will simply "switch off" and they'll die like anyone else.
  • Car Cushion: When Nile, Andy, and Booker dive out the window during their escape in issue #5, Nile manages to land on a car. Thirty-four stories below, but it beats the asphalt, which is what Andy and Booker hit.
  • Card-Carrying Jerkass: Merrick is an abrasive asshole to virtually everyone, and stabs Joe and Nicky until they're down just because he wanted to see what it was like.
  • Catapult Nightmare: Andy has one when she feels Nile awaken.
  • Charles Atlas Superpower: What really makes the team deadly is that they've had hundreds - in Andy's case, thousands - of years to hone their skills, more than any non-immortal foe they face will ever have.
  • Chest Insignia: Nicky regularly wears chest armor with the cross of the Knights Templar on it during missions.
  • Cold Sniper: Nicky is this for the team.
  • Cool Sword: Booker, who had his initial military service in the early 1800s, is the only one of the "old" team who doesn't use a bladed weapon beyond a knife.
    • Andy uses a labrys, a double-headed axe from at least the time of Ancient Greece (and possibly earlier).
    • Joe, being an 11th-century Muslim warrior, uses a scimitar.
    • Nicky, being an 11th-century Crusader, uses a European longsword.
  • Crapsack World: Andy has begun to feel this way about the world as it currently exists, and is just drifting through life with no clear purpose.
  • Driven to Suicide: Booker's motivation for betraying the team. He saw all four of his sons die, and the guilt has become too much for him to bear. He figures that if Merrick can learn why they can't die, perhaps he can learn a way to kill them.
  • Everybody Smokes: Booker and Andy seem to be doing their best to keep Big Tobacco in business. Joe and Nicky don't smoke, or partake so rarely it's never shown.
  • Face–Heel Turn: Booker betrays the team because he wants to die and hopes medical science will find a way.
  • Feeling Their Age: Andy and Booker, though for different reasons. Andy feels like she's just marking time into eternity, while Booker is consumed by guilt about living while his sons died.
  • Flashback: Andy gets several to go with her internal monologues.
  • The Fog of Ages: Andy is so old that she can't remember exactly how old she is, or what her mother and sisters looked like.
    Greg Rucka: "She predates Greek civilization least 2500 years or so. She’s almost 7000 years old. To actually put that in perspective, that means she lived for almost 5000 years before the Common Era, or AD. She was a myth even to Herodotus. Scythia wasn’t a place when she was actually born and learning to ride and leading her people as a Warrior-God."
  • Giant Mook: Kiley, the guy in charge of Merrick's men. Subverted in that he doesn't actually do anything noteworthy, and in the final confrontation, is killed fairly easily.
  • Healing Factor: An immortal will heal from any wound within seconds or minutes, depending on the severity. At least until they one day don't, at which point they can be killed just as easily as anyone else.
  • Heel–Face Turn: Copley turns on Merrick when Merrick makes it clear he's more interested in torturing the team than actually figuring out how to use their ability to help people.
  • Immortal Hero: The immortals intervene in different conflicts trying to do good and have had an immeasurable impact on the world. The villains are regular mortals trying to harness immortality for their own purposes.
  • Immortality Hurts: The immortals always recover from their injuries, but they definitely still feel them.
  • Immortality Immorality: Merrick plans to hold the immortals captive and torture them for however long it takes to replicate their abilities. He's willing to break just about every moral, ethical, or legal code to get his way.
  • Immortal Procreation Clause: Averted. Booker had four sons.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Andy initially flat-out refuses to consider doing the job Copley wants to hire them for, because she's concerned about him noticing they haven't aged since their last meeting eight years ago. When Booker tells her it's about a group of kidnapped children, she relents.
  • Jerk with the Heart of a Jerk: Merrick, as soon as he's introduced, comes off like an arrogant prick. When he first meets Joe and Nicky, he shows himself to be a borderline psycho who exhausts himself stabbing them for his own amusement.
  • Love Cannot Overcome: The last real relationship Andy had was with Achilles, a pre-Revolutionary War slave who fought for the British, then emigrated to England and eventually ended up being transported to Australia. They spent most of the early 1800s together until he finally made her leave before people began asking awkward questions. It's implied that was the last time she let herself fall in love with someone.
  • Married to the Job: Played straight with Andy and Booker, who are both implied to be incredibly lonely, only having their work to distract them from immortality. Averted with Joe and Nicky, who have each other.
  • Meaningful Look: While hunting an insurgent, Nile questions an old woman who denies that the man is in the house. Verbally, that is; she indicates his hiding place by darting her eyes to one side.
  • Mutual Kill: Averted since they can't die, but in issue #5, Andy and Booker shoot each other several times during their argument, until Nile ends it by shooting them both and wounding them so badly they can't move for a minute.
  • Noodle Incident: When you live forever you pick up a few stories.
  • Offscreen Moment of Awesome: Joe and Nicky, handcuffed and chained to the floor of a truck, still manage to kill their entire group of captors barehanded.
  • The Older Immortal: Andy is much older than the rest of the immortals put together.
  • Older Than They Look: Andy claims to be so old she doesn't remember her age exactlynote ; she refers to Joe and Nicky as each being "just over a thousand"; Booker is around 240. None of the characters look any older than their forties.
  • One-Woman Army: Andy goes up against several teams of heavily armed soldiers, and mows through them like grass.
  • Only Known by Their Nickname: The immortals only use their modern nicknames with very few exceptions, such as when Andy introduces herself to Nile.
    • Andy's real name is Andromache the Scythian. (initially it was Andronika, but Rucka changed it).
    • Joe's real name is Yusuf ibn Ibrahim Muhammed ibn Al-Kaysani.note 
    • Nicky's real name is Nicolo di Genova.
    • Booker's real name is Sebastien Lelivre.note 
  • Outliving One's Offspring: Booker outlived all four of his sons, and that fact still haunts him.
  • Really 700 Years Old: Andy, Joe, and Nicky, though Andy is by far the oldest.
  • Really Gets Around: One of the ways Andy tries to stave off her increasing ennui is by sleeping with whoever strikes her fancy.
  • Regretful Traitor: Booker truly regrets giving up the team, but he's so tired of living that he considers possibly dying an even trade.
  • Resurrective Immortality: If peppered with enough bullets or subjected to enough physical damage the immortals can temporarily "die", only to quickly heal and be brought back to life when enough of their bodies have been repaired.
  • Shared Dream: Whenever a new immortal suffers their first death, all of them dream about each other. They've all helped seek others out, and Nicky lampshades that it used to take years before modern technology.
  • Slap-Slap-Kiss: Up to Eleven, as Nicky and Joe killed each other multiple times during the first crusade before falling in love.
  • Slashed Throat: Nile dies for the first time after an enemy insurgent slashes her throat. Her squadmates are shocked when she survives.
  • Spanner in the Works: If Andy wasn't so hopeless with modern tech, she would have realized that there was no way Booker could be looking up websites on his laptop while the team is hiding in a cave.
  • Storming the Castle: During the climax, Nile, Andy, and Booker break into Merrick's tower to rescue Joe and Nicky, then together fight their way to his penthouse to finish him off.
  • Straight Gay: Joe and Nicky both qualify.
  • Survivor Guilt: Booker is tormented by the memory of his sons dying, while Andy was seperated from the only other immortal she knew at that time, and considers it a failure even though she legitimately thought the other woman had died for real.
  • Technology Marches On: In-Universe. In centuries past, it was easier for the team to fly below the radar. The twenty-first century, however, has lead to an increase in the ubiquity of modern surveillence systems and record-keeping, not to mention smartphones. Andy is shown to be pretty hopeless with modern tech, while Booker can at least work a laptop. On the plus side, it takes the immortals about thirty seconds to piece together who Nile is and where she has awakened from their vision just by how much they know of current geo-politics and cultures when they previously needed years to find each other.
  • Teeth-Clenched Teamwork: Joe is not happy that Booker is helping them escape Merrick, but rightly stifles his anger when Andy points out there will be time for recriminations after they're safe.
  • Trading Bars for Stripes: Booker was a counterfeiter in France during his old life. He got caught one time too many and was given the choice of prison or enlisting in the Grand Armee, which he later tried to desert during Napoleon's failed campaign in Russia.
  • Undying Warrior: The protagonists of the story are effectively ageless and capable of Resurrective Immortality, and use these powers the pursue mercenary careers. For good measure, all of them were soldiers prior to becoming immortal: Andy is a warrior from ancient Scythia, Nicky and Joe were on either side during the Crusades, and Booker was a soldier in the Napoleonic Wars. The Baby of the Bunch, Nile, was an American soldier in Afghanistan.
  • Villainous Breakdown: With his forces destroyed, Merrick degenerates into quietly asking if he and the team can come to some kind of understanding. They can't.
  • Volleying Insults: Andy and Nile before the final confrontation with what's left of Merrick's forces.
    Andy: Go big or go home, babe.
    Nile: That's what your momma said.
    Andy: Brat.
    Nile: Hag.
    Andy: Punk.
    Nile: Crone.
    Both: (*grinning*) Bitch.
  • We Will Not Use Photoshop in the Future: Copley initially tries to sell Merrick on the team's immortality with a video of them getting back up and killing all their attackers after being gunned down. Merrick derides it as "a snuff film" and wants physical proof.
  • Who Wants to Live Forever?: Booker never got over losing his mortal sons and Andy has become jaded from what she sees as just going through the motions of existence.
  • World's Best Warrior: Andy would be a strong candidate, as she's a basically unkillable, unstoppable, finely-tuned killing machine with millennia of experience.
  • You Can't Go Home Again: Nile wants to defy this after learning she's an immortal. Andy and Booker talk her out of it.

     Force Multiplied
  • Affectionate Nickname: Noriko tends to call Andy "my heart". It would be more touching if Noriko wasn't an international crime lord.
  • Been There, Shaped History: Part of Andy's world-weariness is that she doesn't think anything she's ever done has made a difference in the world. Copley's research shows that she and the team have saved numerous lives who in turn aided others or had descendants who did.
  • Berserk Button: Noriko wheel-kicks Booker in the face when he calls her "one of us".
  • Broken Bird: Andy ends the volume as this; she's lost face in front of her team due to her depression and negative attitude, then she winds up facing her greatest fear (being alone) when they all leave. Noriko finds her the next morning, not having moved an inch from where she was sitting the previous night.
  • Broken Masquerade: Nile shoots herself in the head in front of Agent King to convince him immortality is real.
  • Call-Back: In volume 1, Andy said that she'd never seen anybody who was as quick in a fight as Noriko. The shadowy figure in Booker's apartment being able to avoid his shots and disarm him is an early clue that it's her.
  • Cool Sword: In issue #3, Noriko downs Andy by slicing her throat with a wakizashi (the shorter of the two swords traditionally carried by samurai). In issue #5 she carries a katana.
  • Downer Ending: Andy finally gives up trying to do anything to fix the world, and when the others realize she won't change her mind, they follow Nile out the door, leaving Andy behind. Into this void steps Noriko, who offers Andy a place in her organization, which Andy accepts because she can't handle being alone.
  • Dream People: Andy initially thought Noriko was this, since she'd never dreamed of another immortal before then. She notes that it took her a thousand years to find Noriko due to the vagueness of the dreams, their initial distance from each other, and the fact that each was moving around during that time.
  • Fate Worse than Death: For an immortal, drowning over and over certainly qualifies (as Noriko believes), but for Andy it's being alone, which Noriko has no qualms about exploiting to try and recruit her.
  • Foreign Cuss Word: Booker at one point calls Noriko "salope", which is the French word for "slut".
  • Foreshadowing:
    • During the flashback which opens issue #1, Andy remembers taking part in a battle and having a captured redhaired man at her mercy afterwards. Issue #5 reveals that he and the other survivors were sold into slavery by Andy's people.
    • Nicky kills one of the men on Noriko's boat in issue #5, and his body is shown lying across the bow railing. After the team leaves, Noriko walks toward the bow and the man is now gone.
  • God Guise: Andy ruled over her people as a god for an undetermined length of time.
  • Heartbroken Badass: Noriko. She and Andy were in love, and she views Andy not rescuing her as a betrayal. This, of course, ignores that Andy had no way of rescuing her, since she was lost at sea during a raging storm in the days of sailing ships.
  • Irony: The operation the team is running at the beginning of issue #1 involves breaking up a human trafficking ring. It's revealed in issue #5 that Andy sold defeated enemies into slavery during her time in Scythia millennia earlier.
  • Mexican Standoff: Between an immortal with an axe and four regular guys with fully-automatic weapons. It doesn't end well. For them.
  • Nice Job Fixing It, Villain: Andy manages to escape from the trunk of the sunken car she's trapped in because Noriko didn't know about the US government mandating easily-accessible interior release handles that also glow in the dark. Andy is able to locate it and free herself after "only" a few hours underwater.
  • No Good Deed Goes Unpunished: But not quite in the traditional manner. Andy pushed Noriko out of the way of a falling yardarm during a storm, and was pinned under it instead. This ended up saving Andy's life, as Noriko was swept off the deck by a rogue wave moments later and lost at sea.
  • Not Staying for Breakfast: Nile sleeps with Agent King, then sneaks out the next morning before he wakes up.
  • Offing the Offspring: Andy's adoptive mother had her killed in the middle of a battle; Andy believes it's because she feared Andy was going to supplant her as their peoples leader.
  • Rage Breaking Point: Noriko advises Nile to ask Andy about "Law 282"note , and when she does, it leads to Andy confessing that she was a slaver millennia ago. Nile, being African-American (and thus at last partially descended from pre-Civil War slaves) takes this revelation about as well as you'd expect her to.
  • Rant-Inducing Slight: Andy loses her temper when Nile flirts with an FBI agent, viewing it as the younger immortal needlessly courting a romance that she knows can't last and potentially setting herself up for heartbreak or exposure.
  • Resurrection/Death Loop: Noriko was locked into one of these when she was accidentally lost in the open sea during a storm. She later inflicts the same treatment on Andy both as a form of payback and to soften her up to Noriko's viewpoint.
  • Revenge Before Reason: Joe flatly tells Copley that Andy would have killed him on sight if they met again. He and Nicky, on the other hand, at least take the time to listen to him.
  • Rewatch Bonus: Once you know the final issue twist that Andy was a slaver millennia ago, her attitude towards human trafficking makes more sense: she's overcompensating due to guilt. She also talks about how "we all deserve a second chance" when accepting Copley's apology.
  • Sadist: Noriko has become this, from a combination of her years-long torment continually drowning, along with seeing how life in the modern era has gone.
    Andy: I've never claimed to be an angel.
    Noriko: But you've refused to be a devil. That is what we are, my heart. Not made to help them, but to hurt them...our purpose is to make them suffer...
  • Sequel Hook: The teaser art for Fade Away shows Andy's labrys and Noriko's katana both broken.
  • Shameless Fanservice Girl: Andy has no compunctions about stripping or getting out of the shower in front of Nile, partly because both of them are women, and partly because she's too old to care about nudity hang-ups.
  • Shout-Out: When Nile and Joe are infiltrating a dock, Joe kills a guard by stabbing a knife into his neck behind his throat. That's the technique US Marines are taught to silence enemy sentries, and Nile, of course, was a Marine.
  • Slap-Slap-Kiss: During the team's confrontation with Noriko in issue #5, she swings her katana at Andy, who blocks it with her labrys. Noriko then darts in and lays a lengthy kiss on Andy, leaving her stunned for several moments.
  • Surprisingly Sudden Death: Andy gets downed by Noriko in issue #2, after freezing in shock for a moment when she saw her.
  • Take a Third Option: In issue #5, the outnumbered Noriko asks whether Andy is going to kill her or lock her up for her actions. Andy chooses to just take Booker and leave.
  • There Are No Coincidences: Joe and Nicky get very suspicious when Copley shows up right after Noriko. Turns out he's not working with her, he was trying to get close enough to the team to warn them, but was uncertain of how he'd be welcomed given his previous betrayal.
  • Unwitting Instigator of Doom: The team has been unknowingly interfering with Noriko's criminal enterprises, which is why she targeted the lone Booker.