Writer: Brian K. Vaughan / Artist: Steve Skroce / Image Comics
I almost didn’t make it past the cover, to be honest. Had this been any other title – had this been a different writer, a different resume, or lesser story I wasn’t so invested in – I would have stayed clear away and turned it over on shelves in comic book stores to save passersby from a close-up of someone’s screaming, burning face. But this book is off to too good a start to be scared away, so onwards we go with Amber, the Two Four, and We Stand on Guard #3.
Issue #3 begins with a short flashback to Amber’s childhood, shortly after the attack on the US when she and her brother are orphan refugees. It was an unexpected scene where nothing too significant happens, but obviously suggests there will be more to learn about the time period from the White House attack until now. The majority of the issue though focuses on a very short period of time – the team leader, Victoria, was captured, and is being tortured by the US to give up the Two Four’s hideout. I would say the rest plays out like a typical episode of 24, but Jack Bauer was never this perverse. As terrible as this is to say, I have to applaud the creative writing behind the torture. We Stand On Guard portrays the future in an original, inventive, and terrifying light.
The issue jumps back and forth between two scenes. On one side we have Victoria being tortured; on the other is the team at headquarters deciding whether to trust her resiliency and stay, or to expect her to be broken and run. The balance between the two is done well, except the scenes back at headquarters could be hard to follow. Between the rubble, Dogs of War, techno-jargon, and intermittent French, the simple rebel hideout was more difficult to understand than the science fiction torture.
It also brought up one other trouble I’m having in the series, and that’s keeping up with the characters. While they’re visually distinct, there’s a fairly large cast of team members and there hasn’t been much time to explore them in depth. I imagine if most readers were tested on the characters’ names, everyone would get Amber right and proceed to fail. The series is still early though, and I have no doubt we will come to know everyone better, I only wish our characters were clearer sooner.
Overall, We Stand On Guard continues to be a great series, and Vaughan’s unique dystopic vision of the future is enough to make the series worth reading. The dialogue is great, our antagonist shows a fascinating look into the fictional US government, and the tension is written incredibly well. You have every reason to continue reading this book.
8.7 out of 10
Reading along with We Stand On Guard? Check out previous reviews of the series here.