"We Stand on Guard #1" Comic Review
Written by James Ferguson
Published by Image Comics
Written by Brian K. Vaughan
Illustrated by Steve Skroce
2015, 40 Pages, $2.99
Comic released on July 1st, 2015
The phrase “I'm going to move to Canada!” is tossed around quite a lot in the US whenever the government does something stupid (Thanks Obama!). Aside from the cold, Canada seems like a magical place filled with polite people, hockey, and maple syrup. What if they weren't our friendly neighbors to the north? What if the US was at war with Canada? That's the premise behind We Stand on Guard from Brian K. Vaughan and Steve Skroce. To make things even more interesting, the book is set 100 years in the future and America is using giant robots in its invasion.
We Stand on Guard begins with a Canadian family watching news coverage of a tragedy akin to 9/11 happening in the US. They theorize who will take credit for the attack moments before missiles branded with “USAF” begin dropping in droves nearby. The children, Tommy and Amber, barely make it out alive.
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Fast forward twelve years and Amber is grown up, making her way through the wilderness, hunting wild game until she's spotted by an American Dog of War. Think Ravage from the Transformers, but a dog instead of a cat, and you're on the right track. Skroce's design for this and the other robots that pop up in the comic is intriguing. It's functional not fashionable. Yes, it looks cool, but it's more about being a military grade weapon and less about being flashy. Since it's in Canada, it spouts its commands in English and French, which is a nice touch.
Skroce delivers some gorgeous artwork throughout We Stand on Guard. Yes, the robots are pretty awesome to behold, but the real treasure comes in the little details with the human characters. Amber is center stage in this regard. When you first see her as an adult, there's a cold, loner quality to her. As the issue progresses, we see a variety of emotions from fear and anger to relief and determination. You spend most of the issue relating to her which makes the closing pages stand out so much. There's one page in particular towards the end that is damn near perfect, featuring only two panels.
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Vaughan is no stranger to great stories and this appears to be no different. He drops us in to this group, who call themselves the Two-Four. Within a few panels, it's like we've been following their adventures for years. You instantly get a feel for the team dynamics and begin to pick out your favorite characters. I'm especially interested in the guy that only speaks French. He clearly understands English, but for some reason only speaks French. Vaughan doesn't waste time filling in the backstories for each of these characters. Instead, you're pulled right into their day-to-day lives. There's a great sequence where one of them is talking about Superman and how he's a Canadian by birth (artist Joe Shuster was born in Toronto). This serves as a momentary relief from the big robot battles and humanizes the Two-Four in a very natural way.
We Stand on Guard presents an intriguing premise that is filled with possibilities. Americans are always concerned about attacks coming from overseas that something coming from “the apartment above the party” would be completely unexpected and incredibly deadly. The inclusion of big robot drones greatly amplifies matters, making the struggle of the resistance much harder. Vaughan has a talent for final pages that leave you begging for more. This issue is certainly no exception. It's a smart book filled with beautiful artwork that you should be reading.