Writer: Brian K Vaughan
Artist: Steve Skroce
Release Date: 5th August, 2015
After a stunning opening issue that surprised absolutely nobody (hey, it’s Brian K Vaughan, folks), We Stand on Guard steamrolls forwards into its second chapter here, providing the same exquisite world-building and detailed, cinematic visuals that made the first installment such a runaway success.
Opening with a dynamic set-piece that shows the belligerent American foot soldiers rounding up some troublesome ‘nucks (a brilliantly-chosen derogatory term for the occupied Canadians), the issue follows main protagonist Amber as she finds herself tagging along with the rebel group ‘Four-Two’, becoming rapidly involved in their resistance movement.
As impressive as Vaughan’s distinctive vision and typically flawless dialogue is, artist Steve Skroce actually eclipses him here – no small feat, as I’m sure you’ll agree – providing some absolutely jaw-dropping moments of scale amidst the smooth exposition and character development. Eisner Award-winning Colourist Matt Holingsworth does just as impressive a job with the visual aspect of the book, keeping things clear and bright throughout with a crispness that marries up perfectly with Skroce’s immaculately-inked lines.
Things do slow down a little here from a narrative point of view, it has to be said, as we take stock of the overall situation following the ‘grab you by the collar and shake’ approach of the first issue. That’s perfectly normal for second issues though, and Vaughan takes time to lay the groundwork for the rest of the story, giving us a better look at the ruthless nature of the American occupying forces and allowing us to meet some of the members of ‘Two-Four’ in a little more depth.
While it was undoubtedly the writer’s credentials that cause me to gravitate towards this series, the stunning visuals and focused nature of the story are absolutely second-to-none, providing a rich, sprawling backstory to what is being painted as a deeply personal conflict for Amber.
While it might not have the same standout visual set-pieces as the ‘mech takedown’ from issue one, or the same dialogue to match the ‘Superman’ speech from the first chapter, We Stand on Guard is still head-and-shoulders above the vast majority of titles on the shelves today, and is as close to essential reading as you can possibly get. Get it on your pull list now.