There have been many comic books that touched on Canada's sometimes-stormy relationship with the United States. In the superhero genre we've had Alpha Flight, written by Canadian John Byrne. And don't forget Wolverine's true north origins, not to mention Captain Canuck himself.
But none have been as direct and visually explosive as American scribe Brian K. Vaughan's newest series We Stand On Guard. The book, informed in part by Vaughan's marriage to a Canadian, is a story about a scrappy group of Canadian freedom fighters facing off against an American occupying force, who conquered Canada with GIANT FREAKING ROBOTS.
Fusing genre-mashing mecha with politics and pathos is nothing new for Vaughan. His ongoing space opera Saga is smart filthy fun — an orgy of ideas told with a menagerie of strange creatures that could only work in comic form.
We Stand On Guard has the same provocative promise. The story begins nearly 100 years in the future, when the United States attacks Canada without warning. In the opening pages a volley of rockets obliterates Ottawa in dramatic detail.
One moment a Canadian family is relaxing in their tastefully decorated living room. Aboriginal art decorates the walls. A young child is perusing a copy of Gil Adamson's The Outlander. The next moment the house is a smoking pile of wreckage with only young Amber and Tommy alive.
Flash forward 12 years and we find Amber in the forests of Yellowknife on the hunt for her brother, who's been taken prisoner. She stumbles into a self-styled group of guerilla fighters named the Two-Four (as in a two four of beer). Introductions have barely begun when a a massive four-legged all-terrain vehicle arrives, looming over the tree line like super-sized Transformer.
Vancouver illustrator Steve Skroce provides the art and specializes in the kind of information-rich line drawings that are such a pleasure to pore over. Skroce is better known in the industry as a storyboard artist who works with the Wachowskis (in fact he met Vaughan at an early screening for Jupiter Ascending.) With his knack for mechanical design and rich facial expressions, Skroce is well suited to Vaughan's adrenaline-soaked storytelling style.
While We Stand On Guard is the first in a six issue series, it wastes no time with the shocking splash page and a few twists along the way. For readers worried about how an American will portray Canada, keep in mind some of Vaughan's best adventures have been lopsided David and Goliath affairs.
One character's rant about Superman's Canadian roots suggests where Vaughan's sympathies lie. Whether his northern exposure will allow him to get away from wolves, wilderness and other Canadian cliches is an open question, but the first 40 pages suggest it's worth sticking around to find out.
Check out the photo gallery in this story for an exclusive first look at the second issue of We Stand On Guard from Vaughan and Skroce.