We Stand On Guard by Brian K. Vaughan
Format: Deluxe Edition Hardcover
Illustrated by: Steve Skroce, Matt Hollingsworth
Series: We Stand On Guard #1-6
Publisher: Image Comics
Length: 160 pages
Brian K. Vaughan, author of many loved comics, including Saga, tackles the often joked about idea of the US invading Canada in this six issue limited series. Vaughan lives in Canada with his Canadian wife, but was born and raised in Cleveland, so even though Americans do get painted as the baddies in this, it is one of your own doing it at least.
It’s the year 2124, and major droughts have left the Americans without water, which is now the resource that drives conflict between countries rather than oil. In a desperate act, they invade the north to take control of the great lakes. They’re more technologically advanced, with more funding having gone to their military over the years, and Canada basically gets steamrolled. This series follows a team of Canadian civilians who have banded together as freedom fighters to try to resist America’s continued expansion through the country.
This definitely has a lot of Vaughan’s typically jokey dialogue, which I always enjoy, but it’s quite dark and bleak as well. I think the fact that it’s a miniseries allowed him to not hold back, to keep it fast-paced and surprising, but it also limited how much depth the story could have. It didn’t really allow for much of a connection to be made with most of the characters, so some of the emotional climaxes fell a bit short. The characters were interesting, but they were the sort to grow on you. Normally a good thing, but tricky to pull off in a short work.
Part of what I loved about this, and it may be a superficial thing to admit, was just having Canada in the limelight. We’re a country that has a steady incoming stream of American and British media, so it’s not often that I come across something so Canadian. Vaughan filled the book with Canadiana references – the freedom fighters call themselves the Two-Fours, there’s the old “Regina, the city that rhymes with fun” joke, there’s a future television series called The Littlest Robo. Even just seeing random city names or brand names that you normally wouldn’t come across, or a Terry Fox reference, is just a fun bonus. I wouldn’t want to regularly be pandered to in such a way, but it was a fun change of pace.
Steve Skroce’s art is really great. I wouldn’t say it’s pretty, as in I wouldn’t want this style of illustration hanging on my wall, but it’s very detailed and really captured each scene perfectly – from snowy vistas to green farmlands. The characters were very emotive and you really felt the scale of the technology (did I mention there are giant robots?).
I found this to be really entertaining, particularly for those of us up north. I’m quite happy he managed to give no mention of Tim Hortons as well, which is something we Canadians desperately need to get over. Although, having just written that sentence, I find it nearly impossible that he’d have the will power to leave that out, so I wonder if I’m just being forgetful.