Adam reads as many comics as he can afford. Every week he reviews of one of them, with potential minor spoilers.
This week I picked up We Stand On Guard #1, the first issue of a new series that I’ve been looking forward to since it was announced at Image Expo a while back. It was written by Brian K. Vaughan and drawn by Steve Skroce, with colours by Matt Hollingsworth and letters from Fonografiks.
We Stand on Guard opens in a home in Canada, 2112, as Amber, her older brother Tommy and their parents look on in horror as the news shows the aftermath of a terrorist attack on US soil. As they guess at which country or domestic group is responsible, the bombs start to fall. Whether Canada or a Canadian group was behind the attack or not, America has responded swiftly with unbelievable force directly aimed at civilian populations. Before they even have time to run the house is ripped apart, and with their parents dead, Amber and Tommy are left to fend for themselves in the face of an occupying US force.
12 years later, Amber is alone in the snowy Canadian wilderness trying to survive. She is set upon by a canine-like mech with a US military brand, but before it finishes her off she is saved by a group of freedom fighters known as the ‘Two-Four’. Despite not trusting her, the group patches her up and then sets into motion a plan to bring down a colossal mech stomping above the forest. By the end of the skirmish, Amber has proven herself to those skeptical of her motives, and as a position tragically opens up, she is welcomed into the ranks of the Two Four.
The first few pages of We Stand on Guard are incredibly visceral, playing up the panic and rushed confusion following a surprise attack that seems so over the top that it looks more like the start of an alien invasion than the opening salvos of a war between two democratic nations. The gut punch and tragedy immediately cools to the post-war world, with Vaughan shifting gears expertly to a situation where dedicated men and women are now fighting in a war that they lost as soon as it began. The set up and plot are great here, even if the character work is a little light. I find new series tend to choose one or the other, plot or character depth, for their opening issue and usually it is those that open big on plot and tease what development will come for their characters that are the stories that will have me coming back for more. Vaughan presents a compelling tale that almost reads like revisionist history transplanted into a near future sci-fi setting, and there are huge mech walkers so really what more could you ask for?
Skroce is given plenty of opportunity to display his range in this first issue, and doesn’t disappoint at all. The opening scenes are intense and at points grotesque (the gore and the overly puffed up and bruised faces immediately reminded me of Chris Burnham’s work), and the desolate wilderness is beautiful as the cold weather almost seems to clash with the cold appearance of the US drone machines. The colour work from Hollingsworth finishes this off perfectly (I think I’ve gone on about Matt Hollingsworth being one of my favourite colourists before), giving the book a hard and chilling edge.
We Stand On Guard is off to a strong start, and I’m looking forward to finding out more about Amber, Tommy and the Two-Four, and what this band of freedom fighters can actually do in the face of total and complete occupation by a faceless and brutal US army. Check this one out at your LCS or download it digitally now!
Score: 8 Oh Canadas out of 10