Queen and Country
"There's a trick, they teach it to you at the School. When someone pulls a gun on you, they say...charge at him like a bloody lunatic... It's the last thing they expect and most of them can't hit water from a submarine anyway...and repeat to yourself over and over that you're doing this for Queen and Country."—Tara Chace, "Operation: Broken Ground"
A comic book written by Greg Rucka about a group of spies in the Special Operations Section of the SIS called the Minders. The main character is Tara Chace, Minder Two. The series is known for a few things: the ridiculous amount of research Rucka does for each issue, the series similarity to The Sandbaggers, and just how realistic the whole thing is.
Characters in the series are:
- Tara Chace: Main character and most often narrator. Beautiful, foul-mouthed, and very good at what she does. She starts the series as Minder Two.
- Tom Wallace: Minder One and the most senior Minder in the Pit (twelve years, which is very good considering how dangerous the job is).
- Ed Kittering: Minder Three and the most junior member. Still a little wet-behind-the-ears and has a crush on Tara.
- Paul Crocker: Director of Operations (D-Ops), the head of the Minders division, the Cynical Mentor to the entire team. He also cares very deeply about his operatives, but is perfectly willing to send them to their deaths if he has no other choice.
- Donald Weldon: Deputy Chief of Service, Crocker's boss. Gets into plenty of arguments with Crocker, but often backs him up.
- C: Chief of Service, everybody's boss, who ends up as Francis Barclay. Most often, he's the Obstructive Bureaucrat.
The first series has finished with 32 issues, three prequel volumes, and three novels. Operation: Broken Ground was the first published, but chronologically, they go:
- Queen & Country Declassified Volume 1 (Paul Crocker's backstory)
- Queen & Country Declassified Volume 2 (Tom Wallace's backstory)
- Queen & Country Declassified Volume 3 (Nick Poole's backstory)
- Operation: Broken Ground
- Operation: Morning Star
- Operation: Crystal Ball
- Operation: Blackwall
- Operation: Stormfront
- Operation: Dandelion
- Operation: Saddlebag
- Novel: A Gentleman's Game
- Operation: Red Panda
- Novel: Private Wars
- Novel: The Last Run
Tropes used in this work:
- Action Girl: Tara Chace.
- Action Mom: Massive spoiler: Tara Chace in Private Wars.
- Anyone Can Die: Ed, Butler, Tom Wallace.
- Britain Is Only London: Quite averted. We visit various installations all over the UK and Nick Poole has a history in Ireland.
- Broken Ace: Tara is beautiful, witty, and very good at her (extremely difficult) job. She's also plagued with self-loathing (particularly after being ordered or feeling compelled to commit "horrible but oh-so-necessary" acts) and has absolutely no life outside the job until her daughter Tamsin is born.
- Cold Sniper: Subverted - Tara is sent to murder a Russian mobster with a sniper rifle. She does the job cleanly and without hesitation, but afterward drinks heavily and engages in other forms of self-abuse.
- Dead Guy, Junior: Tara has an affair with Tom in A Gentleman's Game, and she names the resulting child Tamsin, which is a shortened version of Thomasina
- Deadpan Snarker
- Dirty Business: All of the Minders are called on to do terrible things; none of them feel good about it. Much of the series shows Tara's resulting self-abuse and struggle with the psychological aftermath. (Ironically, stone-cold killers are the last thing Crocker wants for agents.)
Doctor Callard: You sent her to Kosovo to shoot a man in cold blood. You wouldn't want her in the Section if that didn't bother her.
- Downer Ending: A few times, things...don't end well. A Gentleman's Game ends with Tom Wallace dead. Private Wars ends with the chessmaster of recent atrocities as President of Uzbekistan while Tara has to sacrifice more of her own soul to shoot the vengeful husband of the woman who'd been raped, tortured, and murdered at that President's behest to preserve stability in the region. In front of his own son. Only that her daughter is waiting back home for her gives this a glint of light.
- Expy: The series as a whole has a lot in common with The Sandbaggers, but most characters are different in various significant ways. Most. Paul Crocker and Tom Wallace are obviously modeled on Neil Burnside and Willie Caine, respectively.
- Firing One-Handed: And completely impractical, as shown with Russian gangsters.
- Fun with Acronyms: A hurricane of acronyms, most of them real, like D-Ops. You have to pay real good attention to understand what most of them mean, too.
- Gratuitous French: For one issue (#25), Tara and her mother talk almost entirely in French.
- If You Ever Do Anything to Hurt Her...: Tara to her mother's fiancé.
- Improvised Weapon: The Minders often have to make do without knives or firearms, so they've fough with everything from collapsible batons to items from an airport gift shop.
- Murphy's Bullet
- Mythology Gag: To Rucka's previous mystery comic, Whiteout.
- Newspaper Dating: Used repeatedly.
- Post Nine Eleven Terrorism Movie, Real Life Writes the Plot: The series started just a few months before the terrorist attacks of September 11th. Crystal Ball takes a few pages to show the cast's immediate reaction to the event, and the consequences immediately start turning up in the plot.
- Retirony: Tom Wallace goes to teach and then bites it in A Gentleman's Game.
- Shown Their Work
- Spiritual Successor: To The Sandbaggers. Chace is a Spiritual Successor to Lily Sharpe.
- Spy Fiction: Definitely, extremely in the Stale Beer category.
- The Spymaster: Paul Crocker, of course. Also Angela Cheng, the CIA Station Chief in London. Paul once jokes that at least a quarter of the staff at Security Services (MI 5) headquarters is on the CIA payroll. Given Angela's level of knowledge regarding what the Special Section is up to, this may not be entirely a joke.
- Invisible to Gaydar: Nick Poole.
- There Are No Therapists: Averted, there is one (nicknamed "the Madwoman of the Second Floor") but due to the nature of their work, there's little she can do to help agents besides patch them up so they can return to the field and get demolished again...
- Unfunny Background Event: In Morningstar, the in backgrounds of two consecutive panels are a beggar with no hands bothering an agent, and then the same beggar being beaten up by the Taleban.
- Weapon of Choice: Subverted; Minders are only allowed weapons outside the UK.
- We Will Not Use Photoshop in the Future: Averted - a blackmail video is sent for analysis to confirm it was not faked.