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.