SAGA writer BRIAN K. VAUGHAN teams with artistic legend and Hollywood storyboard artist STEVE SKROCE for a subversive, action-packed military thriller. Set 100 years in our future, WE STAND ON GUARD follows a heroic band of Canadian civilians turned freedom fighters who must defend their homeland from invasion by a technologically superior opponent…the United States of America. Collecting all six issues of the controversial hit miniseries.
Brian K. Vaughan’s We Stand On Guard pits Canada against the United States in a missile launching, mechanical fueled war. Joined by equally acclaimed artist Steve Skroce, We Stand On Guard is a sprawling read, offering a beautiful look at a war torn new world.
Set in the year 2112 — 300 years after the War of 1812 — We Stand on Guard is seen mostly through the eyes of Amber, a woman who is only a child when American forces first crosses the border and invades. The book’s opening is almost like a television serial: we are offered an idyllic glimpse at what once was in Canada before American bombs drop all over it. This introduction allows us to see the light switch transition of Amber, who within a page flip goes from a giggling child to a trauma hardened teen. It is an effective bit of setup.
Amber grows up in this conflict, and when she is a young adult, Amber meets and joins an entire rebellious platoon of regular folks from various backgrounds and provinces called “The Two-Four” — a reference to the size of a Canadian case of beer.
Vaughan does a solid job introducing the motley crew of the Two-Four, but even with the book’s oversized format they amount to little more than cardboard cutouts. The members of the Two-Four all serve to fill certain necessary roles, but there is no backstory or character development. Even Amber, our main lead, falls flat after her initial introduction. I was a little disappointed that the characters came off a bit flat and two-dimensional.
Vaughan spends his time introducing us to the future wasteland that was once the Canadian wilderness. It is a bleak place, one patrolled by giant, animal-inspired robots bearing the United States seal. The Robots are awesome, and oftentimes reminded me of the droids of Star Wars. Imagine the United States military had an unlimited budget and 10 decades of Transformers and Pacific Rim style movies to guide their research and development – that is what we get in We Stand On Guard.
The USA-Canada match-up seems a bit of stretch, but with a Trump presidency and climate change deniers in power, it is not that unbelievable, particularly with the Great White North described as “the Saudi Arabia of Water.” There is also some historical precedent; in the 1920s, War Plan Red was enacted just in case the United States ever needed to go to battle against Canada.
However, the best part of this work lies in the book’s art. Steve Skroce is phenomenal! His lines are almost impossibly clean and each panel is loaded with little details that lend an added sense of realism. The care Skroce gives his giant robotic creations is equal to the attention given to his majestic landscapes – the contrast between the groaning rivets in the snow-laden environment is beautiful. Skroce also draws a heck of an action sequence, as exemplified by a Star Wars style group take-down of a massive robot on patrol.
Every one should read this book, particularly Americans and Canadians. Jump in for the dystopian future, stay for the monster robots and awesome art.
Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars
Title: We Stand on Guard
Publisher: Image Comics; Deluxe ed. edition (May 10, 2016)
Genre: Graphic Novel, Comic, Dystopian, Science Fiction
Read… on Father’s Day while… listening to the Alien soundtrack.
Purchase your copy here.
Author: Brian K. Vaughan
Recently named “Writer of the Year” by Wizard Magazine, and one of the “top ten comic writers of all time” by Comic Book Resources, Vaughan’s work has been featured and/or reviewed in countless mainstream media outlets, including The New York Times, MTV, National Public Radio, and feminist magazine Bust, which photographed him for their “Men We Love” issue (don’t ask).
As an undergraduate film student at New York University, Vaughan got his big break as part of Marvel’s Stanhattan Project, a workshop for aspiring comic book writers. In the ten years since, he has written nearly all of the major DC and Marvel characters, everyone from Batman to the X-Men.
In September of 2006, Vertigo released Vaughan’s first original graphic novel, Pride of Baghdad, lavishly illustrated by artist Niko Henrichon. Inspired by an unbelievable true story of four lions who escaped the Baghdad Zoo during Operation Iraqi Freedom, Pride is equal parts anthropomorphic adventure and Animal Farm-like parable about the ongoing conflict in Iraq, and was described as “the best novel so far” about the war by the UK’s Telegraph.
Along with his creator-owned work, Vaughan is currently writing The Escapists, a Dark Horse miniseries inspired by Michael Chabon’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay, as well as a new Doctor Strange limited series for Marvel with artist Marcos Martin.
This summer, the new WGA member/CAA client transplanted his poor playwright wife to Los Angeles, where Vaughan is currently working on the screenplay adaptations of Y and Ex Machina for New Line Cinema, as well as other new creations in film and television.