Brian K. Vaughan has already cemented himself as an important cornerstone to comic book history, and he continues to impress through Saga and the recently wrapped digital series The Private Eye. Whenever a new title is announced in which Vaughan lends his pen, heads should turn and pre-orders should be attended to. It becomes a bonus when the creative team as a whole features some stellar individuals. Look no further than the freshly released title We Stand on Guard.
The premise is fairly simple on the surface: a group of freedom fighters remain in Canada, defending their country from the invading forces of the United States. What starts as a joke from the mouth of a young Canadian boy, living with his family in Ottawa during the year 2112, turns into what seems to be quite possibly fact. What in turn makes the premise a bit more deeply rooted is Vaughan’s questioning of America’s handling of terrorist attacks.
The Canadian family watches on their television as breaking news announces an attack on the grounds of the White House. The father makes some controversial remarks, wondering if the U.S. will wait for someone to take credit before they bomb Algiers in the morning. Anyone that is familiar with a Brian K. Vaughan script knows that politics are both front and center and in between the lines. Shortly, after this family discussion, a large array of missiles is seen outside their window, belonging to the U.S. Air Force; and so begins We Stand on Guard.
Fast forward to the year 2124 where the daughter Amber from the family mentioned is now found in Yellowknife, Northwest Territories. She quickly encounters a group of Canadian freedom fighters, whom rescue her from a robotic attack dog from the American military. Very quickly, the members of this team, whom call themselves ‘The Two-Four’, are extremely likeable. They are established quite firmly and given a decent amount of personality within the early timeframe of this book. Vaughan has done it again.
Steve Skroce (Canadian!) returns to comics after being a major part to the Wachowskis’ body of work through some storyboarding work. His attention to detail is noticeable from the opening splash page, pencilling a decent amount of background as well as foreground, creating a real sense of deep focus within the frames. His detailed lines really stand out during the busier frames, capturing the cold steel of the American robots and the textured costuming of the freedom fighters. He draws faces that exaggerate their emotions a bit but really work in the lighter moments, such as one of the greatest splash pages of the year showcasing a particular member of the freedom fighter’s love for Superman. Skroce’s style is his own but is also reminiscent of the work of Darick Robertson.
Matt Hollingsworth’s colouring is very sharp, considering the lack of vibrant colour during a majority of the first issue. Hollingsworth’s colours really stand out, alongside Skroce’s illustrations, when the lettering is withheld from some of the more intense moments, allowing the artwork itself to breathe out an impactful boom from an expected or unexpected explosion. Fonografik’s lettering does stand out when it is incorporated and is subtly planted to capture sounds in between dialogue, such as the growling of a dog or the ripping of a shirt.
The creative team of We Stand on Guard does a stellar job of introducing a premise that seems like it could be yet another false poke at Canada as a joke but it appears that the great white north is being approached with careful consideration. The Canadian easter eggs are abound with Tim Hortons and the CBC but there are some great sensible additions such as the French speaking character named Les LePage and even having a member of the freedom fighters question Amber when they first meet to validate her identity in the form of a hockey question. It just makes sense that a fellow Canadian would ask another who won the Stanley Cup in 2011 to make sure they are who they say they are. All in all, We Stand on Guard has a very promising start that can really dive deeper into the political conflict.