Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Book Review: Queen & Country, Definative Edition Vol 1 and Collections Vols 4-6

If you like spy stories about secret agents attempting to thwart criminal masterminds, while wooing a gaggle of compliant women and ending with a military assault against the villain's fortified lair--then Queen & Country: The Definative Edition, Volume 1 is not for you.

The series, written by Greg Rucka, is about the dull investigations and dirty little deeds intelligence operatives conduct in order to achieve something they can claim as a victory--until the next operation. 

Q&C debuted in March 2001 as a line of comic books and won the Eisner Award for Best New Series in 2002.  From 2002--2007, Q&C was packaged into a batch of collected stories centered on a particular covert/clandestine operation, with each booklet containing about four of the original comics.  Since then, the "operations collections" have, in-turn, been repackaged into three Definative Editions.  These include the "declassified" backstories of some of the characters and a scriptbook.

I stumbled across my Definative Edition at Half Price Books during their annual Labor Day Weekend Sale.  (20% off all titles--the store also has the same deal during the Memorial Day Weekend). But copies are also available at Amazon.com.

The stories include:  Operation Broken Ground, Operation Morning Star and Operation Crystal Ball.  Of these, only one is about a terrorist plot involving the threatened use of a WMD (weapon of mass destruction).  The rest are small-scale dramas, with low-key conclusions that I found--or at least imagine to be--more true-to-life.  Oh, there are fights, chase scenes and shootouts.  But bulk of each narrative deals with the uncertainty and anxiety before the fight/chase/shootout, or the consequences of the action afterwards.

The writing and artwork are top-notch, which made Q&C an Eisner Award winner back in '02 and a nominee in both '03 and '04. 

I loved this initial volume of Q&C's Definative Edition and gladly award it a 5-star rating.  At least five other raters on Amazon agree with me.  Half of the 14 reviewers give the series a 4-star rating, while two reviewers give it only 2-stars.  One of the low-scoring reviewers thought the stories dull, while the other merely said it was decent, without giving any specific reasons for the rating.

Most of the less-than 5-star reviewers found the styles of the different artists to be distracting.  I could see their point.  While the main character, Tara Chase was easy to identify, some of the secondary characters a bit harder to figure out since they were portrayed so differently.  However, I didn't think it was detrimental enough to the story.

Since this wasn't the only Q&C book I purchased during my spending spree, I've added some "bonus reviews:"

Operation Blackwall--Tara Chase is called-on to help a British communications tycoon, with friends in high places, thwart a blackmail plot.

Operation Stormfront:  Tara and a newbie "Minder," as agents of the Special Operations Section are known as, are sent to snoop around T'blisi, Georgia, in an attempt to find a kidnapped Russian industrialist.

Operation Dandelion:  Tara & crew are asked to look into the feasibility of sponsoring a coup against Robert Mugabe in Zimbabwe.  (Spoiler Alert!  This story line was published between November 2003 and February 2004--and Mugabe's STILL in power, so you can guess things don't turn out as planned).

Normally, I focus on one book or graphic novel for a review.  But I couldn't help myself!  I enjoyed the series so much, I read all the books I bought in one fell swoop and give each one 5-stars.  

I intend to get all the Q&C books I can. 

If you're not a fan of graphic novels, Tara Chase's adventures continue in the novels A Gentlemen's Game, Private Wars and Last Run.

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