Publisher: Image Comics
Writer: Brian K. Vaughan
Artist: Steve Skroce
Release Date: 1st of July, 2015
We Stand On Guard, the latest offering from acclaimed writer Brian K. Vaughan (he wrote a little underground hit called Saga, which you might have heard of) takes us into the 22nd century as a small band of Canadian civilians-turned-freedom-fighters unite in an attempt to defend their county against a hostile invasion – from the United States of America.
The first thing that hits you about this series is the absolutely stunning visuals of Canadian artist Steve Skroce, whose crisp, detailed linework gives the book an impressively clean feel to it which helps to hammer home Vaughan’s emotional and narrative beats. A storyboard artist on the Matrix Trilogy, Skroce’s cinematic approach to his layouts really shines through here, particularly during the fluid action scenes that take place during the second half of the issue. His characters are distinctive and expressive, and he manages to include some truly shocking moments of violence and gore without things ever feeling schlocky or tasteless. Make no doubt about it, this is an utterly gorgeous book, and some of Skroce’s panels here would probably be worthy of the cover price on their own, they’re just that good.
With an opening sequence that introduces us to main protagonist Amber and her family mere moments before war breaks out between the two countries, Vaughan displays his distinctive gift for subtle exposition, providing us with a firm grasp on the world without feeling the need to hit us with a wall of text. His dialogue – perhaps one of the strongest selling points of the critically acclaimed Saga – remains smooth and natural throughout, and one particular Superman-based monologue by one of the freedom fighters says pretty much everything you need to know about the Canadian resistance’s mindset. It’s a brilliant moment that speaks to the level of Vaughan’s storytelling genius. Yeah, genius. I said it.
Honestly though, I could gush about the subtle nuances and impressive storytelling in this first issue for hours, but my best advice to you would be to go out, buy it, and experience it for yourself. Seriously, you can thank me later. Simply put, We Stand on Guard is absolutely essential reading from one of the most supremely talented writers walking the face of the planet today, and features some of the best artwork I’ve seen so far this year.
Limited series it may be, but you’re going to want to get in on the ground floor of this one before it blows up to become yet another global critical and commercial juggernaut. Years from now, when people are clamouring for first issues on eBay and reminiscing about where they were when they first picked this one up, you’ll be able to smile, nod, and say “yup, told ya”.