Queen and Country is a comic book series by Greg Rucka. It is thirty-two issues long, with three mini-series prequels and three novels. The series ran between 2001 and 2007 and I am kicking myself for only reading it this year. It may be my favorite spy series ever.
I have always enjoyed spy fiction but as I get older, my tastes change. I am less interested in James Bond’s missions as much as I am interested in what kind of a person Bond is. Bond is an efficient killer, but that makes him a deficient person. He engages in a lot of self-destructive behavior and although Fleming and the movies have flirted with these ideas, they never really explore them.
Queen and Country has three agents that it follows, but Agent Tara Chace steals the show. She is highly effective. She also drinks, smokes and fucks too much. The lady is a true badass, but it seems like a matter of time before she self-destructs.
My other interest in spy fiction are the people who organize the missions. In most stories, the mission is presented in whole cloth to the agent by a friendly briefer. In this series, we see the intel come in, get debated by analysts, get argued by bureaucrats, get maybe vetted by ally agencies, get approved/disapproved by the people in charge, only for the mission to get done under the table anyway, with or without government support and the agent only gets half the story. I could be wrong, but it felt like 75% of the series was this phase, and the actual mission took up only a quarter of the story. Kind of like in real life.
It means a lot of the stories are talking heads arguing with each other while drinking tea, but it is no less exciting. Operational concerns, rival agencies, global politics, local politics and sometimes just plain spite play large roles in every covert mission and I eat that kind of drama up.
I highly recommend this series. It scratches my John le Carre itch as well as my Bourne efficiency itch and throws in some agent self-destruction awareness to boot.