MINOR SPOILERS BELOW…..
What if the U.S. invaded Canada?
This here wee hypothetical is the idea driving Brian K. Vaughan’s and Steve Skroce’s latest literary endeavor, We Stand On Guard. Set in the 22nd century, a vicious attack is perpetrated on the White House in the form of what appears to be a bombing of some sort, leaving the historical building and its grounds in utter ruin. As news coverage is broadcast around the world about this horrible incident, a family watches from Ottawa as updates come in from their local station. Positing ideas about who might be responsible, the son innocently chimes in with “What if it was us?” Before further theories can be explored, the family’s attention is diverted to their window as they gaze out in horror at multiple United States Air Force bombs descending from the sky upon Ontario. A split second later an explosion goes off, blowing a hole in their home, killing the mother and fatally injuring the father. His last words are to his crying and bleeding son, instructing him to watch over his baby sister and to never leave her side. The story then flashes forward twelve years to the little girl, Amber, now grown to maturity, and seemingly without her brother around to hold fast to his promise of safeguarding her in a war-torn country, infested with advanced unmanned weaponry and American soldiers looking to imprison or kill any Canadians who oppose them. With reasons for an invasion always being more complex than the cut-and-dry surface-excuse sold to the general public, us readers are left to merely wonder what the true nature of this conflict really involves for the time being.
Longtime fans of Vaughan’s work are familiar with his penchant for telling great, emotionally-driven and well-written tales. With a catalog of titles which includes past books like Y: The Last Man and Ex Machina, as well as his more current, ongoing book entitled Saga, readers know from experience that they’re in for some good readin’ if the story’s got his name on it. His experience as a television writer (he wrote on seasons three through five of Lost) shines through on all of his books, which fittingly read as episodic installments more than monthly comic book issues. He’s even expanded his horizons into online publishing with his brilliantly produced The Private Eye. Being the humanitarian the good sir is, he and his partners have even left the purchasing option open to a “Name Your Own Price” selling point. God bless these lovely human beings.
A comic book is only as good as both the creative minds manning the proverbial ship, so we can’t shortchange our amazing artist, Steve Skroce, by only throwing some love to Mr. Vaughan. Skroce has been working in comics for over twenty years, but has only drawn for the medium intermittently during this time. He’s been the go-to artist for the Wachowskis, having created storyboards for not only their Matrix Trilogy, but also for every film they’ve directed since then, including one of my personal favorites – V For Vendetta. He’s also drawn for the few comic books the siblings have produced through their Burlyman Entertainment comic book publishing company. His art has a distinct and beautiful look to it, and I don’t think We Stand On Guard would be as enjoyable without his contribution. His “director’s eye” brings Vaughan’s dialogue to life in a way that makes you want to reread their book more than once just to fully appreciate all of the artistic detail Skroce has injected into it. Some books are a bit hard to get through if you aren’t fully awake and alert. That wasn’t the case with this here title, which I read twice in one sitting.
At the end of issue number one, there is a short one-page letter column recounting the back-story of Vaughan’s and Skroce’s brainstorming and partnering on this title. In it, Vaughan shares a few of the Canadian Easter eggs he’s littered throughout the story, including the name of the freedom fighters we’re introduced to: Two-Four. Being a fan of the occasional inebriation, I loved how in this hypothetical future, Canadians still remember a “cold one” can make a shitty day a teensy bit more tolerable.
We Stand On Guard #1 is available online and via your friendly neighborhood comic shop.