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Many people will know of the SIS because of James Bond or le Carrés novels. Despite both franchises dating back to more than 40 years, the SIS has only been officially acknowledged publicly for 17.
It is a world still shrouded in mystery.
My own in interest in the SIS stems from my father living in the same city as the GCHQ, which is very closely linked to the service. It’s the British equivalent of the NSA headquarters at Fort Meade (although it bares more resemblance to the Pentagon.)
As for Queen & Country, it represents American writer Greg Rucka’s idea of some of the inner workings of the SIS. This is the first collection in the series, containing the first four issues of the ongoing Oni series and a special short by Stan Sakai.
The story is centralised on the special operative Tara Chace. She is a minder, one of three deadly operatives put into play when there is a mess to clear up or when someone needs to be taken out of the picture.
This volume starts with the assassination of General Markovsky, a member of the Russian Mafia in war torn Kosovo. Following the assassination a price is put on Tara’s head and the M16 headquarters in London is targeted by a rocket attack.
Can the service protect Tara? And can they find who is responsible for the attack?
Greg Rucka delivers quality writing. From start to finish you are drawn in, wanting to know the answers to all the unknowns.
It feels like it captures the political nature of international security in a realistic manner. The characters are written perfectly, their internal quibbles helping to increase the feeling of the overwhelming bureaucracy in the service.
Espionage is a hard subject to write about due to secrecy of the inner workings of the service and Rucka does very well. An American writing believable British dialogue is also impressive.
Rolstons’s artwork is entirely done without the use of colours and features clean lines with little shading, vaguely similar to some of Brian Bolland’s work.
The artwork was heavily criticised when first released for being too cartoony. I would argue that Rolston’s work is very well done and is realistic enough.
My main criticism of the book is that it has an ending.
This may sound bizarre to hear at first but I can explain my reasoning.
Being a huge fan of John le Carré’s works, I just never expect a satisfactory ending to any story involving a secret service; it’s in the nature of the genre to be inconclusive and I almost felt cheated when the story tied up.
On the whole, Queen & Country is one of the best comics produced by the smaller companies in a long time. Oni Press has done an admirable job publishing the individual issues and putting out these collections.
“SIS works secretly overseas to make the UK safer and more prosperous. We obtain secret foreign intelligence to inform Government decisions. We disrupt terrorism and nuclear proliferation and our intelligence helps to prevent and resolve conflict.
“We work with our overseas agents, contacts and partner Services to shape developments and project the UK’s influence… The secrecy of our operations, and the identity of those who work with us, is our foremost principle…
“SIS is a modern organisation with sophisticated technology and a diverse workforce – all dedicated to protecting the UK and contributing to a more prosperous and peaceful world.”
In Tara Chace we trust.
Yes – this is where it all began for the series. You will be lost without the issues contained here.
Maybe watch a JB film to get yourself in the mood for some secret service action. James Bond or Jason Bourne, whatever your preference.