Comic Shots #5 with Chris Neseman: Vesper Martini and ‘Queen and Country’

August 14, 2008

Each week Chris Neseman drops by to pass along a tasty drink recipe and an even tastier comic book recommendation. The cocktail and the comic can both be enjoyed independently, but they have a common theme and when served together they can make for the perfect reading experience.


This week’s recommendations have been a lot of fun to put together. It’s actually the first drink/comic combo I came up with when I started doing Comic Shots. James Bond and his famous “shaken not stirred” martini is a perfect fit with comics culture. I have to be honest that I did some research and found that Bond doesn’t drink a simple vodka martini. No, the world’s most famous international man of mystery has his own special drink called a Vesper. In Casino Royale, Bond described this drink as being “…large and very strong and very cold and very well-made.” and it is certainly all of those things. James Bond is larger than life, and when I think about it, his signature drink should be as well.

So, if you’re feeling like you need a little adventure, but can’t afford a trip to France for a game of baccarat, may I suggest:

The Vesper Martini
• 3 oz gin
• 1 oz vodka
• 1/2 oz Lillet Blanc

Start with a martini glass and fill it with ice and water to properly chill it. Take a martini shaker and fill half way with ice and then add your gin, vodka and Lillet Blanc. Shake it till your arm gets tired. Empty the now chilled martini glass and strain the contents of the shaker into it. Add a nice long piece of lemon peel and you’re off to the races. This is when I take a seat in my favorite chair and throw a copy of From Russia With Love into the DVD player. Of course there’s an even better way to get your espionage fix these days if you’re a comics fan, and that is by reading…


Queen & Country
Publisher: Oni Press
Writer: Greg Rucka
Various: Artists

Anyone who has listened to Around Comics for any amount of time knows that I love Queen & Country. It was the first comic that showed me how much passion can be poured into a creator owned project. Don’t get me wrong, Greg Rucka spins some great tales in his mainstream comics. His stories in Detective Comics, Wonder Woman, Wolverine, Black Widow, Gotham Central, Checkmate and others have all been entertaining and enjoyable. There’s just something about Queen & Country that makes you feel that Rucka is at his best here.

I love good spy stories, and growing up watching James Bond movies is probably a big reason why. Unfortunately the Bond formula became stale for me years ago. When you go to see a new Bond film, you pretty much know what to expect. Bond looks cool, gets a new gadget or two, goes to a couple exotic locations, beats the bad guy and then gets the girl. There’s nothing wrong with enjoying the formula, but the movies and the character never seem to evolve. Queen & Country goes places that the Bond movies never do. It takes a real world approach to the spy game and delivers a hard hitting look inside the world of international espionage. The characters and the world’s political landscape, just as in real life, are constantly evolving. The spy business is not for the faint of heart, and the toll it takes on those who work in the intelligence community is pushed front and center in Queen & Country. How does an agent cope with the guilt of killing another human being? How do they react after their harrowing work is wiped away by political deal making? What recourse do they have when their own government won’t support them with the resources necessary to complete their task? These and other questions are at the heart of what makes this a different experience from other traditional spy fiction. In addition to the actual operations and effect it has on the agents, Queen & Country spends as much if not more time focusing on the politics of espionage. There are just as many dangers to avoid in the offices of MI-6 as there are in the field. Political agendas and the fragile relationships between agencies and other governments provide constant turmoil and multi-layered plot twists. Reading one issue of Queen & Country will show you what real office politics are all about.

The book feels authentic because the stories are based on real world events. Rucka has his finger on the pulse of world’s politics and he isn’t afraid to write about them. Before 9-11 happened, Osama Bin Laden and the Taliban were mentioned in the pages of Queen & Country. Each story shifts to different locations around the world, each with their unique culture, customs and threats described in fantastic detail. This is a meticulously researched and perfectly pieced together puzzle of spies, terrorist organizations, government officials and world politics. The series is smart and keeping up with the multiple plot lines and large cast demands the readers attention. At the same time Queen & Country is very approachable and all the information you need is there to be absorbed. In a nutshell, Queen & Country has great action, real human emotion, and complex political intrigue. Most importantly, it makes you think while remaining immensely entertaining.

Rucka has become known for writing strong yet flawed female leads, and there is no better example than Queen & Country‘s Tara Chase. Our first introduction to Chase is when she is still a relatively new member of Her Majesty’s special operations division. Starting in the first story of Queen & Country called “Operation Broken Ground”, we see Chase begin a downward spiral of guilt and isolation brought about by of her position in Her Majesty’s Secret Service. Having a license to kill is not the same as having a conscience to kill, and Chase must come to terms with the harsh realities of her job. Chase does have someone in her corner, Director of Operations: Paul Crocker. He is in my opinion the real star of Queen & Country. His unflappable belief in what is good for Britain and his special section is the one true constant in the series. His voice of reason gives the reader a baseline of sanity in an insane world. Crocker’s beliefs are just, and he’ll sacrifice his own career to do what it right. Crocker will go to the wall for his agents, and he is the one figure they can and do believe in. I often feel that the agents, or Minders as they’re called, are working for the approval of Crocker more than the protection of the crown. Crocker is the pivot character that connects the operations side and the political side of the series. He is a former Minder himself, but now his battles are in the treacherous offices of MI-6. While Crocker and Chase are the two most important characters, the rest of the cast are all interesting and unique. Queen & Country is filled with a variety of personalities and dimensional characters that create a fully realized and true to life picture of one country’s intelligence department.

While Queen & Country has one common voice in the writing of Greg Rucka, the art duties have been taken on by many of comics best young talents. The list includes Steve Rolston, Brian Hurtt, Bryan Lee O’Malley, Christine Norrie, Leandro Fernandez, Jason Alexander, Carla Speed McNeil, Mike Hawthorne, Mike Norton and Chris Samnee. The mix of artists may seem disruptive to some readers, but I’ve found myself looking forward to different artistic takes on the characters. Because the writing is consistent, the art helps separate each story and gives each arc it’s own identity. My first time seeing the work of Brian Hurtt, Jason Alexander and Mike Hawthorne were all in Queen & Country. It should also be noted that Tim Sale has contributed some breathtaking covers that are often worth the price of admission alone.


So I guess the last thing is to let you know where to start reading Queen & Country. If I’ve done my job and peaked your interest in it you should be running to your local comics shop or typing in the URL of your favorite online bookseller. Oni has made it easy be rereleasing the series in some beautiful Definitive Editions. The first two volumes are available now with a third scheduled for release soon. Combined, these include all 32 issues of the main series. There are also three Declassified mini-series that contain stories of current characters in past missions that are well worth tracking down. The third Declassified is the only Queen & Country story not penned by Rucka, with Antony Johnston showing off his considerable skills in Rucka’s place. And if that isn’t enough to fill your need for good espionage, there are two full length novels that work in concert with the comics. A Gentleman’s Game and Private Wars effectively finish what Rucka calls Queen & Country, Vol.1. There’s so much more I could say about this series, but I can’t think of better way to wrap up than by asking that you pick up the first Definitive Edition and try it out for yourself. Queen & Country is a great espionage series and a Vesper is a great spy’s drink. I hope you take the time to try and enjoy them both. Thanks for reading, and I’ll see you back next week for another round of Comic Shots.


Chris Neseman is the host of The Around Comics Podcast and a co-host of the 11 O’Clock Comics podcast. You can contact him at and suggest a cocktail or comic of your own, because good drinks and good comics should be shared.

Please obey the law and only drink if you are of age. Drink responsibly and never drink and drive. Buy only the amount of comics that you can till your wife or significant other threatens to throw things away.


  1. Those Definitive Editions are the size I wish all trades would go to.  That or Starman Omni size.  Both are perfect for carrying around.

  2. Great recipe for when life gets on top of you and you need a quantum, or more, of solace.

  3. I tip my hat as always Chris. Your incessant chatter on AC about Q&C starting years ago went instantly from irritating to understood and agreed once I finally picked up the trades. I don’t know if there is a series – novels included – that I’ve read and reread more. The day Queen and Country Volume 2 issue 1 comes out is the day that God proves that he loves us.

  4. i like the Rucka shrine

  5. @ Hank

    You should have seen it before I took the candles and the 8X10 color photo down. 

  6. I talked about these definitve editions with Rucka at a con this year and he said he was annoyed with Oni over them because they called them "Definitive Editions" without discussing it with him. He would have wanted the definitive editions to have additional special features and the first two do not. He said starting with vol. 3 he’s going to be adding a bunch of supplemental material. 🙂

  7. You blew it Chris…this should have been a scotch based drink…

  8. Ha!

    Tara does like her scotch. But I did scotch last week!


  9. Great book Chris, thanks to you and AC for getting me into it.  Will be buying Vol. 2 in singles, then again in the Definitive format.

    Looking forward to Stumptown in the meantime…

  10. @Chris "Tara does like her scotch. But I did scotch last week!"

    Fair enough…btw please do not let Katers bust your chops too much about drinking on 11:00C, it’s great podcasting when you tie one on…

  11. Geez Chris when are you gonna recommend something I haven’t read?

    Like Charles Burns’ Black Hole (or as my friend calls it "the big book of scary vagina")

  12. Cammy…

    Black Hole is our Book of the Month at AC silly boy.

    I’ve got a couple picks I’m thinking about for next week. We’ll see if I can land on one you haven’t read. 

  13. I know, I listen to AC and all things Neseman. I’ve borrowed it from a friend, but I’ve been reluctant to start it cause, well, you saw what he called it.

  14. Does anyone know if they’re planning on putting the three Q&C Declassified volumes into one of the Definitive Editions? 

  15. It doesn’t appear so at this point. I really think they should have been weaved into the definitives because the first one should really be read before the 5th arc.

    I would love to see a smaller Declassified Definitive Edition with a bunch of extras… 

  16. Chris,

    I’m no longer reading you posts at work. I have decided to only read your recommendations with drink in hand at home. less work related stress. I have found that the Q&C goes down smooth with a little Lagavulin over a qube.  But I do love a Vesper after a long day of trying to act cool.

  17. @ChrisNeseman – haven’t commented on any of these posts yet but figured I should at least let you know I’m enjoying the articles even if I don’t have much to contribute to the discussion yet.

    We met briefly at Wondercon in Feburary. I was the guy who came up and talked to Billingham for awhile when you two were chilling at the Hero Intiative booth. 

    Anyway, keep up the great work! Another article I now regularly look forward to from ifanboy.