While much of my #WarComicsMonth reading so far has been focusing on older books, especially those “gold standard” comics from DC and Marvel, I have picked up some newer titles in the genre in recent years. They’re not from the big two, but tend to come from studios like Image, Boom!, or other independents that have eschewed super hero continuity for smaller-sized stories.
We Stand On Guard is written by Brian K. Vaughan with art by Steve Skroce and was published in 2015. This was while Vaughan was on issue #30 of Saga and overlaps the premiere of Paper Girls for a couple of months. It’s a six-issue miniseries that dropped on Canada Day of that year and tells of a Canada in the 2100s that has been invaded by the United States.
Our protagonist, Amber, was a child when the U.S. bombed Ottawa, and has been living on her own in the Northwest Territories for the last several years when she is picked up by an insurgent group and joins them. Through the use of flashbacks at the beginning of every issue, we get her childhood and adolescence, beginning with the moment of the attack on Ottawa that kills her parents, and concluding with the day that her brother gave himself up to the U.S. military as a way to save her. In the present, she acclimates herself to the group and they fight what is certainly going to be a losing battle, especially after their leader (“chief”) is captured and tortured.
I bought this one off the rack back in 2015. The premise of a war between the U.S. and Canada intrigued me and I’d heard good things about Brian K. Vaughan’s writing (I love Paper Girls but have yet to read Saga). It did not disappoint back then, and I am happy to say that pulling it for reconsideration in my collection shows that it still does not disappoint. The art–while quite graphic at times–is realistic and serves the action well. And while some people might cringe at the United States being the villain of the story, I think Vaughan does a great job of playing up stereotypes of Americans while also hitting up on the greed and ambition that often plague our country.
Plus, he turns a familiar trope of American action stories on its head. We Stand On Guard has a similar flavor to 1984’s Red Dawn, as you can tell that these insurgents are the cell who will symbolically start to turn the tide when Canada ultimately fights its way back to independence. Vaughan makes us care for Amber, her brother, and all of that ragtag group, who could have been right out of The Matrix. And while it’s certainly a six issue series that doesn’t take long to read, it feels like a complete story that isn’t leaving anything out.
The series was collected in hardcover in 2016 and in trade in 2017. I’m not sure if those are still in print, but if you are able to find it (or the back issues), pick them up.
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