Monday, September 5, 2016

WE STAND ON GUARD: A REVIEW

We Stand on Guard
Written by: Brian K Vaughan
Illustrated by: Steve Skroce and Matt Hollingsworth
Hardcover: 160 pages
Publisher: Image Comics
Language: English
May 2016
Genre: Comic/Graphic Novel

SAGA writer BRIAN K. VAUGHAN teams with artistic legend and Hollywood storyboard artist STEVE SKROCE for a subversive, action-packed military thriller. Set 100 years in our future, WE STAND ON GUARD follows a heroic band of Canadian civilians turned freedom fighters who must defend their homeland from invasion by a technologically superior opponent...the United States of America. Collecting all six issues of the controversial hit miniseries.

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I like Brian K Vaughan a lot. I like the stories he tries to tell and the themes within. Quite often he tells stories that challenge his readers, create questions, and provoke discussions. Many of his works are currently on my shelf (Pride of Baghdad, Saga, Y-The Last Man, and Ex Machina). I will admit that I largely grabbed this from the library because of Vaughan’s apparent power over me. But you have to admit that the cover is striking. Don’t you want to read more?

The story begins in Ottawa in 2112 as a family watches the drone footage of the bombing of the White House. Who has done it? For young Tommy, Amber, and their parents they won’t get to ponder long as the US is swift in its retaliation flattening Ottawa with their own bomb barrage. 12 years later Amber is hunting in the North Territories, her brother captured by the Americans. She discovers a band of Canadian civilians who have become freedom fighters. Together they will fight to defend their homeland from invasion by the technologically advanced US.

Things I liked: Yay Canada. From the Canadian roots of Superman, the references to the Littlest Hobo, and the fact that LePage speaks almost exclusively in French is so great. Seriously, I love LePage. As a French speaker I loved that most of his bubbles were completely in French and there were no translations. I was proud that my skills haven’t completely atrophied.

The premise of the comic is an interesting one. The fact that the US would have interest in Canada’s water and oil is interesting. There is mention that a good portion of the US is again a Dust Bowl due to ignoring climate change for so long and thoroughly screwing themselves. So clean water is now a commodity the way that oil was in the Middle East. Is it enough to start a war with one of The US’s closest allies? The Canadians in We Stand On Guard think so.

I love the artwork, especially the Mechs. One of the giant mechs kind of reminds me of an AT-AT especially the way that it is taken down in the snowy landscape of northern Canada. The artwork really is gorgeous with its fairly muted palettes and detail with the mech and tech designs. Amber looked a bit older than the early twenties she was supposed to be a few times (she looked to be about 7 or 8 in the prologue), but that is a minor quibble. The rest of the art works with the plot. Its bloody, violent, and I liked it which probably says a lot about me.

Loved the use of VR as a torture technique. Apparently torture of the future is one where bodily harm is not inflicted. Psychological warfare at its worst with advanced VR. Guantanamo also seems to be a thing of the past, now prisoners work as slave labor on farms. Somehow certain things seem sadly plausible should certain officials be elected into office. Sigh. Anyway….

Things I didn’t like so much: I am surprised that Amber did not find the 214 earlier given her hatred and bitterness. The US did kill her family and currently have her older brother captured…so you know, I get it. Amber is really the only character who is fleshed out and even then I thought she could have been more fully developed.

While the pacing is quick. It is almost too quick. The dread isn’t there, the ending too quick and tidy (yet a ton of unanswered questions) left in its wake. I also didn’t understand the overkill on such a small band of rebels. And yet perhaps that is the satire right there. There are some giant plot holes, but they didn’t make me enjoy the story less. Oh and one more thing, the hero poisons the well? I’m sure the surviving Canadians will be thrilled. Again, probably the satire right there. Oh BKV. *Smile*

Buy or Borrow: Borrow. While I overall enjoyed the book, it didn’t resonate with me the same way as some of BKV’s other works.

Part of: Standalone.

Also Recommended: For more Brian K Vaughan please check out Saga, The Pride of Baghdad (a standalone), Ex Machina, or Y the Last Man. For another war comic please try The Photographer by Emmanuel Guibert or Exit Wounds by Rutu Modan.

3 out of 4 happy bibliosnark bookmarks 

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