Story: Brian K. Vaughan
Art: Steve Skroce
Colors: Matt Hollingsworth
Publisher: Image Comics
Release Date: 7/1/2015
We Stand on Guard is an interesting book; and I don’t mean that in a passively aggressive insulting kinda way. It really is a book that grabs your eye (first) and then holds onto your mindspace with a familiar story that is still jarring in its realization.
Everything in the book takes place during the early 22nd century, with America having recently invaded Canada. Steve Skroce and Matt Hollingsworth use that temporal feature to showcase the perfect artistic union for what will surely be remembered as the Canadian Red Dawn. Ok, well maybe not, but the book does have that distinctly grassroots patriotic vibe that the 80s version (sorry Hemsworth fans) had in spades.And like the film, the book doesn’t seem to be lampooning that at all; the opening pages make the tone of the book abundantly, if not shockingly, clear.
Without going into too much detail I’ll say that terms like “Shock and Awe”, a military doctrine that utilizes massive amounts of force to psychologically effect the enemy,take on a whole new meaning when that effect is seen in spectacularly rendered detail. Skroce’s extremely dense line work mixed with Hollingsworth’s reserved color usage really give the panels a stark quality that is great for a story like this.
Speaking of, Vaughan’s story could be interpreted a number of ways at this point. There’s some pretty obvious “war is horrible, especially for civilians” stuff going on, but there are also some other more subtle themes at play. I’ll try to only focus on two, though there are several others worth considering.
One of the major themes at play here is, America is super belligerent and merciless. The Canadian characters voice concerns about to that effect about “the Americans” and “the American Way”. Vaughan is setting up a story that’s closer to home for us, both in geographic proximity and cultural similarity. War with Canada, at least in my head, seems more like a civil war than anything else the US has been engaged in since the late 1800s.
Also Amber, WSOG’s protagonist, grows up during an age of war. There is a brief moment where we are shown what she was like as a little girl before her life was torn apart. Later, we meet her again and she’s all gristle – at least psychologically, this is a comic book – a product of harshness. Likewise with the compatriots she finds; once normal people they’ve been thrown into this extraordinary situation, for a long period of time, and have adapted. So it seems like there’s the idea of sustained conflict as a transformative force at play here as well.
Overall, We Stand on Guard is a solid read. Like I said, it’s a story type that you’re sure to be familiar with at this point, but it’s the novel bits that make this book. The artwork is fantastic and even though the story is still in the early stages, there are a lot of elements present that should make for a captivating read for many issues to come.