Queen & Country: Definitive Collection, Vol. 1 by Greg Rucka collects the first 12 issues of Queen and Country. I’ve reviewed issues 1-4, which were initially collected as Queen and Country: Operation Broken Ground, here. I really struggled to write this review, and it took me a while to pinpoint why. Here’s the crux of it: this book was disappointing. Not bad, mind you — just disappointing. And, I think that what made it difficult for me to review is that I couldn’t pinpoint*why* it was disappointing. Operation Broken Ground didn’t really feel groundbreaking, but it was a good read. Perhaps more importantly, it was a good read with promise.The glimpses into the characters’ lives made me want to know more about them, and there was a suggestion of more substantive things to come. It pulled me in, and I was excited to see how it would develop. So, I moved on to The Definitive Collection, picking up where I’d left off. First up, in “Operation Morningstar” (issues 5-7), Tara Chace still has serious issues — no surprise, given her line of work. “Morningstar” is, ostensibly, about a mission involving the Taliban, but it’s really a vignette dealing with Chace’s existential crisis. Following the events of “Broken Ground,” Chace finds herself feeling adrift, having been left out of a mission that holds special meaning for her. Through conversations with the psychologist she’s sent to see (to determine whether she’s ready for a full return to duty), we get a clear and straightforward look at the tensions inherent in her job, and a reminder — as if it were needed — that a happy ending for her is highly unlikely.
And here’s what I finally pinpointed: if “Morningstar” had been the end of the volume, I’d have come away happy. It dug a bit into questions that are, for me, Q&C’s real draw: how can Tara Chace do what she does without being destroyed by it? Can she? Could anyone? I’d have recommended a slightly less anvilicious treatment, but it worked well enough to keep me wanting more. But, “Morningstar” wasn’t the end of the volume, I didn’t come away happy, and I only want more if it’s better than “Operation Crystal Ball” (issues 8-12), the final arc in vol. 1.
“Crystal Ball” initially seems as if it will juggle a few important story lines, but really only has one hook. See if you can guess which one it is. “Crystal Ball” presents us with a race against the clock to stop a terrorist attack, an attempt to settle a score from long ago, and an ill-advised dalliance; one of comes across as an afterthought, one is a page-turner, and one feels like a cheap plot-device. But, for me, the least compelling thing about “Crystal Ball” is Leandro Fernandez’s illustration. Why? Well, here’s Tara Chace from “Operation Broken Ground” (illustrated by Steve Rolston):
Here she is from “Operation Morningstar” (pencilled by Brian Hurtt):
And here she is from “Operation Crystal Ball” (illustrated by Leandro Fernandez):
It’s possible that I judged Crystal Ball’s story so harshly specifically because of the visuals, but if I wanted Lara Croft I’d…you know, there’s really no good end to that sentence, BECAUSE I DO NOT WANT LARA CROFT. Volume 1 gets 3 stars, overall, because I think both Broken Ground and Morningstar were quite good. That goodwill, combined with the fact that I do not see Fernandez listed as the illustrator for any future volumes means that I will continue reading. There’s still a hint of the substantive, I still want to know the characters better, and the missions still pull me in. But I’m disappointed.