by Glen Weldon
Last week we asked you to weigh in on the girls-and-comics question (questions, really) and your thoughts were gratifyingly weighty, indeed.
If I may attempt to sum up:
1). The stubborn predilection for pulchritude (read: chicks with gazongas the size of Pilates balls) that is manifest in mainstream-comic representations of creatures female seems to inspire more eye-rolls than outrage.
2). Some of the things y'all look for in a funnybook include:
• Plotlines that are intricate and satisfying, especially if said plots are driven by:
• Characters who are smart, interesting, strong and relatable. If they happen to be female: Bonus.
Okay, A: Can I get an Amen? And B: Queen and Country.
The comic series that checks all those boxes, after the jump ....
Oni Press is repackaging Greg Rucka's Queen and Country series in what it's calling, with the dispassionate restraint for which comic-book marketers are famous, the Definitive Edition. The hefty third volume, all 267 pages of it, arrives in comic shops today; the fourth and final volume is due in February.
It's a spy series, yes. And it's set in Britain. But it's not a 'That-was-very-foolish-Mr.-Bond-and-now-the-world-will-quake-before-my-death-ray' kind of spy series.
This is the kind of hardscrabble, high-stakes espionage that depends on split-second timing and vast reserves of intestinal fortitude. Rucka dumps his characters unceremoniously into the center of real-world political struggles and practically dares them to find a way out. (Several don't.)
He's also fascinated by the political struggles taking place back home, amid the bureaucracy that exists to support such secret and dangerous work.
Put it this way: Intricate and satisfying plotlines? Check and check.
But at its heart, Queen and Country is about the toll that doing this sort of thing for a living takes on people, most notably one Tara Chace, a field operative with the British Secret Intelligence Service (SIS).
If you know the British mini-series Prime Suspect (and you're on the NPR website, so I'm thinking those odds are good), Tara Chace has a bit of Helen Mirren's Jane Tennison in her: hard-edged, driven, and perpetually struggling to keep the job she does so well from hollowing her out completely.
Interesting? Check check.
Is she strong? Listen, bud: She's got radioactive blood. Okay, I made that up. But she is tough as adamantium nails. Which brings me to:
Well, sorta, I guess. Tara Chace certainly is flawed in ways that feel true and recognizable. But it's tough for me to call her relatable, really, when I couldn't spend more than a minute in her boots without going fetal in abject terror. But then, I have to say I'm glad that I can't relate to getting stranded in a war-torn foreign city and spending the next few days evading roving militias. So: Check?
That sparks a thought, actually: Are there any comic-book characters you can really relate to? Not just that you like, or whose adventures get your blood going, but whom you strongly suspect is on your particular wavelength?
Put it this way: Who'd you like to have a beer with?