REVIEW: Vanguard: Book One

Creator: Dan Butcher

Summary: Vanguard is centered around the titular task force of super-heroes that serve not only as the United Kingdom’s poster-children for the meta-human community, but also as a covert black-ops unit. This duality of nature helps ensure that them, and units like them that aren’t quite as camera friendly, are seen favorably by the public that they serve. However, after being sent on a routine rescue mission to a dangerous war-zone, complications arise and secrets unfold that begin to change the dynamic of power in the civilized world. War erupts in first-world nations. Rioting breaks out in the streets as food runs short. And conspiracies, “plans within plans,” begin to come to light. In the end, it leaves the Vanguard in a dire, and unfavorable, position.

Story: The storytelling in Vanguard starts a bit slowly, but quickly picks up its pace after the first issue. One thing that I immediately noticed about Dan Butcher’s writing is that when there’s words, there are lots of words; and when there’s action, there’s lots of action. The story shifts between these two quickly at times, coming off of pages of dialogue and diving directly into massive action sequences. While I have no inherent distaste for long dialogue in comics, it does come off to be a bit much at times. I found myself skimming over some pages that were simply walls of text. However, it’s worth it to slug through, because in whatever ways Dan Butcher falls behind when it comes to long-winded speeches, he handedly makes up for with his action sequences.

When the comic began, so many of the designs seemed similar that I was worried even calling it a parody of popular tropes might not be right. I was worried for the originality of the comic. However, once the heroes changed from their vibrant “public” outfits to their spec ops gear, the tone of the work shifted quickly. The pages of Vanguard where the real energy is flowing are excellent, and just breeze by as they’re read. Some authors struggle with action, but Butcher already has a great mind for pacing the scenes, keeping them fresh and flowing, and carrying on the story on throughout them. The genuine feel of a war-zone is conveyed.

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Art: The art in Vanguard is far from flawless, but it’s nothing that can’t be understood and followed. There are places, poses, where the characters feel a bit awkward. If anywhere, Butcher could improve on his anatomical drawing skills, and the panel layouts aren’t the most creative in the world. But the fact that every step of the process was completed wholly by himself lends him some leeway. Creating an entire comic, from page to pencil to letter, is a massive undertaking. The art is solid enough to convey the story and that’s something to be proud of. Besides, once again, the action sequences are where the title shines in the art. It’s almost as though Butcher draws everything better when orchestrating these violent skirmishes. His faces are even drawn more clearly when they’re being punched than when they’re emoting.

Conclusion: Vanguard is a solid read and a promising indie title that should open some doors for its creator. It’s worth checking out for some of its creative takes on traditional super hero situations. I personally, am always a fan of throwing some real-world elements or speculation into this genre.

You can pick up a copy HERE

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