Writer: Brian K. Vaughan / Artist: Steve Skroce / Image Comics
If you know the books behind Brian K. Vaughan’s name it was probably an easy decision to add this title to your reading list. Y: The Last Man, Pride of Baghdad, Saga – his list of works aren’t only some of the best on shelves, but also amazingly consistent. Finding a sloppy verse on his album is like seeing a poorly coached game by Gregg Popovich – you’d probably doubt your own judgment before questioning what’s put before you. So here’s another verse to add to his collection, We Stand On Guard.
And true to Vaughan’s past, he doesn’t waste any time before shit gets real. The series takes place over 100 years in the future, set in Canada. It’s a 40-page issue to begin the series, which is an amazing investment given what you can expect, but also because the cover price is the regular $2.99. We follow Amber, our protagonist, in the Canadian wilderness as she meets the vagrant group of civilian soldiers who will be her compatriots for the series. The rest are details best left for you to discover.
Steve Skroce is the artist on this book, and this issue’s artwork is well drawn and detailed; and even better, the sequentials are very well paced. The character designs are also realistic despite taking place a century in the future, avoiding the pitfall of being too cute and futuristic with what people look like and what they wear. It fits the story, as the team called the Two Four is resistance fighters who’d have little use in the wilderness for future-chic costumes. Instead we get practicality, and that’s fine when characters’ actions bring the badassery.
Of course, this being the future, there are robots in the book, and whether you’re a fan of that type of thing or not you can expect their use to supplement the plot rather than drive it. So far, at least. I personally dig them, especially being slightly evocative of the dinosaur robots in another current sci-fi title by Image, RunLoveKill (which you should also be reading, by the way). It’ll be interesting to see the book’s use of Dogs of War and whether they will be a premiere feature of wartime technology, or just the earliest glimpse towards what’s to come.
The uncomfortable thing about this series is that its portrayals of violence might feel against your sensibilities, and when you ask yourself why that is, you might not like the answer. This is a war story, and it doesn’t seem one where the USA will be portrayed in a very positive light.
If you bleed red, white, and blue, and believe in American exceptionalism, and find yourself questioning others’ patriotism on a regular basis, this book probably isn’t for you. Save yourself the anger and go back to watching Fox News, as you probably won’t be able to stomach the United States being a clear villain. For the rest of us, enjoy an interesting look into a dystopic future from the perspective of an opposing side of our war, and see where Vaughan and Skroce take us.