For those unfamiliar with either the comic series or the Netflix action movie it inspired, The Old Guard is the story of a group of immortal warriors with regenerative abilities who offer their services to whomever can afford them. Basically, they are ageless, and if wounded they can miraculously heal, but they aren’t completely immortal. One day, their luck may just run out. Led by the over six-thousand-seven-hundred-year-old Andromache of Scythia, affectionately known as “Andy,” the group includes Nicky, Joe, Booker, and the newest recruit, former U.S Marine Nile Freeman.
The off-shoot series, Tales Through Time, focuses on short stories starring these main characters.
The first story in this issue, “My Mother’s Axe,” takes place between Books I and II (Opening Fire and Force Multiplied, respectively). Andy trains Nile in combat on a beach of the Canary Islands. Nile struggles to wield the heavy bronze axe that belonged to Andy’s ancient mother. Afterward, as they rest, Nile doubts ancient metal smiths could render such a precise and sharp blade. Andy insists that it’s the original axe, and she recounts the many battles and re-forgings that shaped its history.
The story’s central question is similar to the question of the ship of Theseus, or the more direct paradox of “the grandfather’s axe:” If an historic ship gradually faces decay, and if the wooden boards are replaced until nothing is left, is it still the same ship? Or if an axe has its blade, grip, and shaft gradually refurbished, is it still the same axe?
Andy insists that it is. The emotional resonance of it being the only tangible legacy from her mother is not lost.
As the technology around her advances and the older methods of metallurgy are forgotten, Andy has found it harder to get the axe fixed. Since her earliest memories are hazy at best, Andy must preserve the axe as one of the only ways to preserve her heritage.
The second story is “Zanzibar and Other Harbors,” which takes place in Berlin of 1932. On the eve of the Third Reich’s dominance, fascist sympathies are quickly taking over the city and pushing out civilians who live on the fringe (i.e., Jewish, Polish, LGBTQ+). If you’re a musical theater fan, it compares to the world of Cabaret.
The story stars immortal lovers Nicky and Joe as they attempt to enjoy a romantic evening at a drag cabaret revue. Several Nazi officers populate the bar. When a Nazi officer attacks a young trans woman, Nicky and Joe engage in an ill-fated rescue before a surprise visitor from their past saves them.
The poignancy of Nicky and Joe’s story is that as history has progressed, they have gradually been able to be more open about their relationship. When they originally meet in Opening Fire, they are fighting in the Crusades on opposing sides. The real focus of this short story is how they have inadvertently served as guardian angels of gay men throughout history as society changes to be more accepting.
There is great artwork and layouts throughout both stories. Particularly, how Leandro Fernández demonstrates the passage of time and the decay of the metalsmith trade over the course of centuries, as Andy berates the large imposing metal-smiths that aren’t used to such a commanding woman. Likewise, artist Jacopo Camagni renders Nicky and Joe’s flashbacks in an interesting way through a pillar of cigarette smoke.
However, don’t choose this issue as your dive-in moment for The Old Guard. If the Netflix movie got you interested in reading more, it’s better to read Book I: Opening Fire to understand details about the characters’ pasts and relationships. Get familiar with the world before you jump into Tales Through Time.
For mature readers. Features violence, profanity, sexual situations, nudity, and adult themes.
Creative Team: Greg Rucka and Andrew Wheeler (script), Leandro Fernández and Jacopo Camagni (art and covers), Jodi Wynne (letters), Daniel Miwa (colors and cover colors) Alejandro Arbona (editor), Eric Trautmann (publication design)
Publisher: Image Comics
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