Netflix’s “Old Guard” represents a familiar, secretive group of unkillable soldiers, but it would be difficult to classify it as a typical comic book adaptation. Directed by Gina Prince-Bythewood, with the screenplay by comic book authorGreg Rucka, The Old Guard, focuses on the relationship between these eternal characters and how they lose faith in a world that refuses to change for the better. It is an action movie with more intimacy and discernment than you expect, and it helps create a solid foundation for comics.
The comic book “The Old Guard”, representing the stunning art of Leandro Fernández, colorist Daniela Miwa and writer Jodi Wynne, is a genuine spectacle depicting epic military episodes in recollections of past battles of soldiers. The film works on a smaller scale, which works in its favor, relying on intuitive, melee fights. But for those who want to expand their experience, here is a guide to the world, characters and exciting action of the comic.
The Old Guard is a “tale of blood and bullets,” haunting immortal soldiers whose life is determined by conflict. They discover their immortality when they are killed (or rather, not killed) on the battlefield, and spend centuries after traveling the world in one united group, fighting for what they consider right. Of course, individually, they hope for the day when their immortality disappears, an accident that happened with only one of them in the past.
The current quartet of immortals – led by Andy, a woman with a millennia-old history – gets a new member when Nile Freeman, a US Marine, miraculously suffers a fatal injury while touring in Afghanistan. Neal appears just at the moment when the secret existence of the group is at risk, as a result of which they fall into the crosshairs of a big pharmacist brother who wants to reveal the secrets of his genetic code. Cue with blood and bullets.
Image Comics publishes the title in a five-issue mini-series format, starting with The Old Guard in 2017 and ending with The Old Guard: Force Multiplied in 2019, which ends next week. The collection of the first miniseries is already on sale: The Old Guard, Book One: Opening Fire, and The Old Guard, Book Two: Force Multiplied hits stands September 16. You can read the first issue of The Old Guard for free here.
The Main Immortals
Start of immortality: Central Eurasia, approximately 4700 B.C.
What she lost: too many people, and she was tired of it. She discovered her immortality when she was killed by a woman warrior, whom she considered her mother, a betrayal that made the killing even more painful.
She was alone a thousand years before meeting Lycon and Noriko, two people like her who meet completely different fates. Lycon dies in battle, the first and only immortal to run out of the clock. Noriko is lost when she is dumped from a ship in the middle of the ocean.
Andy’s last love was Achilles, a freed slave who fought with the British in the Revolutionary War and met Andy when he was sentenced to a colony in the West Indies. He grew old with Andy, who left him before people became too suspicious of her immortality.
What the movie doesn’t show you: the comic spends much more time in Andy’s past, starting with a sequence that contrasts her victory on the battlefield and her conquest in the bedroom. The montage was carried away by the vast experience of her work with great leaps in time and place, moments connected with endless massacre.
The Old Guard: Force Multiplied reveals Andy’s first death in the snowy mountains, where she enters the war with her ax and throws herself into a crowd of enemies. Andy’s youth, strength, and intelligence threaten her mentor, who orders the rest of the army to kill her. Andy survives, for some time she is worshiped as a god, and then settles in her life, wandering from one war to another, occasionally meeting an immortal, tortured guy.
Start of immortality: The First Crusade.
What they lost: Nicky and Joe are the only members of the team who do not think about how much immortality costs them, because it gives them each other. They both became immortal at the same time and through violence experienced a level of physical connection, which grew into love.
What the film doesn’t show you: Nicky and Joe meet each other as enemy fighters when the Christian army besieges the Muslim stronghold. They discover their immortality by killing each other, and continue to kill each other every time they come to life. They always wake up together, ultimately deciding to continue in the same vein without the prelude to murder.
Start of immortality: Russia, 1812.
What he lost: four sons who hated their forever young father because of the deterioration of their bodies. They begged him to share his secret and cursed his name when he could not. It is a danger to tell the truth to your family.
What the film doesn’t show you: a soldier in Napoleon’s army during the doomed invasion of Russia, Booker is one of the French who remained frozen and hungry when the Russians set fire to their own fields and cities in the midst of winter. There is nothing on the horizon, and only misfortune on the horizon, Booker is trying to go into the desert, but he will be caught, pulled out from the cold and hanged on a noose where he stays for three days until the army moves on.
Start of immortality: Afghanistan, modern day.
What she lost: mother and younger brother, whom she can’t turn to for fear of suffering the same consequences as Booker.
What the film does not show you: not applicable. The Nile war forces her to look for individual terrorists in Afghan villages, and not fight with huge armies, and all this appears on the screen. In fact, the film has more Nile activities, for example, a sparring session with Andy, which emphasizes her hand-to-hand fighting skills. Rucka’s second-draft screenplay expanding Nile’s role in the story brought Gina Prince-Bythewood on board, and the film gives the character more time to explore the grief of losing her old life and discover what she needs to do with her eternal future.
Other Significant Characters
Noriko (a.k.a. Quynh)
Start of immortality: Precise time and place unknown, but after Andy and before Lykon.
What she’s lost: Lykon and Andy, but also her sanity.
What the movie doesn’t show you: The broad strokes of Noriko/Quynh’s story are the same on the page, but the details change. Its main function is to show the terrifying side of immortality, as it experiences a constant state of drowning and rebirth at the bottom of the ocean. In the comic, she is thrown from a ship into a storm. The fate of her colleague in the film is more related to human cruelty. She finds herself in the same terrible cycle after she was put in an iron maiden by people who discovered her and Andy’s secret. Noriko eventually returns as the main villain in The Old Guard: Force Multiplied.
Start of immortality: Not applicable.
What he has lost: the trust of the five immortals who will kill him if he does not help them for the rest of his life.
What the film doesn’t show you: like Neil, Copley ends up getting a lot more depth in the film. He got a backstory that he lost his wife due to cancer, which forces him to work with Merrick to open the key to immortality. The comic version is simply caused by his salary and debt to his employer.
Start of immortality: Not applicable.
What he lost: any semblance of decency. After all, his life.
What the film does not show you: how much he is a sadistic maniac? The film version of the film “Big Pharma”, devoted to the use of immortality, is much more boyish and meek compared to the tormented tattooed character in the comic book. When he first meets the captured Nikki and Joe, he treats them like living pillows, joyfully stabbing them because they cannot die. They make him pay for it later.
Dr. Ivan (a.k.a. Dr. Meta Kozak)
Start of immortality: Not applicable.
What he lost: his life.
What the film does not show you: the doctor who is tasked with experimenting with Nicky and Joe is a man in the comic book, and he becomes a symbol of the love of two immortals to each other. When Dr. Ivan decides to let the two men go in the hope that they will show mercy to him, they immediately kill him for injuring the man whom they love most.