Brian K. Vaughan blew up Canada on Canada day. Not in real life, mind you, but the explosion felt real. "We Stand on Guard" is written by Vaughan, with art by Steve Skroce and Matt Hollingsworth, and takes place in the future, where America is using robots to attack Canada.
The story begins some twenty years before the present, where we meet Amber and her family. Almost immediately, they’re thrown into hell, and not all of them survive. Skroce’s art is fast, heavy, and visceral. His character’s equipment is realistically detailed, and the falling snow and robots have weight. The colors by Hollingsworth felt calm, in a not-so-calm world, mimicking that eye-of-the-storm feeling before a big fight. Skroce sequences the panels with a jumpy movement that’s appropriate for the action and tension, while still providing gorgeous spreads of giant robots, painful gore, and group shots. The only offsetting thing is how often the characters have the same eyebrows, but that just might be nitpicking.
Vaughan’s script is just like his other work, full of snappy, natural dialogue. He leaves the French raw and doesn’t make the other characters repeat it through awkward dialogue. French is just as popular as English this side of Canada, so why would it need repeating? He paces the story well, so we get a glimpse of everyone, but the reader is left wondering who each character is. As a group, they’re clear, but the balance shown here would be more comfortable in a later issue. At the end of the first book, we know the group is militia of some sort, but Amber’s personality is virtually non-existent.
I’m happy that he’s keeping the tension human and personal. That, instead of relying on the politics behind the war to show how large the reach is, we get both famous actors and childhood victims of an atrocious bombing involved in the ongoing battle. I especially love how, when asked to prove her loyalty to Canada with an arbitrary sports question, Amber basically tells the other character to shut the hell up.
But what Vaughan does well, like in his other stories, is keep a rigid pace that doesn’t let you settle. Even the slower scenes have tension, while still feeling like a breath of air. I was left with more questions than answers at the end of the book, despite a bit of an info dump that naturally flowed through the dialogue, but it was exciting enough that I felt dared to come back. I really wish this series wasn’t only six issues long.