Pros: The story is something unique and interesting in a way that makes it not only interesting but also relevant to the real world. It is also a chilling and real depiction of what war and torture could be in the future.
Cons: The comic ends before you can become too emotionally involved in any of the characters. The art is great but doesn’t really match the book very well.
Overall: This book is a wonderful thought experiment in what would happen if the US wasted its own resources and began conquering for more. It also is an interesting read to see a war from an anti-American viewpoint, especially one that makes as many good points as this one. The only problems with this is the art feels off and the work ends too quickly. This would have made a wonderful longer series
What if America spoiled all of its resources and needed more? Would they attack Canada for all she is worth? And if they did how would both country’s people react? This book strives to answer these questions and more in a dystopian graphic novel that breaks free from the young-adult genre. It is gripping, realistic, and thoughtful in ways that only Brian K. Vaughan can manage but also a wonderful read to experience. Make sure to read this if you enjoy alternate histories/futures or if you just enjoy realistic messages about war.
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Brian K. Vaughan does what he does best in this work by taking the story to a much more realistic base. This means characters die, people are tortured, no one is a perfect person, and not everything ends perfectly. He knows that there is no status quo to protect so he is able to do whatever he wants to these characters. Some scenes are particularly chilling and remind the reader how dark humanity can be, such as when Amber has to kill her first person or especially when McFadden is being tortured. These are things that could never be in a DC or Marvel comic. If you like Saga then you will be happy to know that there is a very similar feeling here. All of this then contributes to the story feeling much more authentic and real, less like a fairy tale and more like a history lesson.
Inside this intense story of action, politics, and war, lies a great message about the present and the future. This book shows America after global warming and excess have ravaged her. It is a nice little warning about where we may be heading in the future. Readers will go into the with the opinion that this is simply another fictional future but will finish realizing that this is actually a possible future. This story warns us of this yet also excels in not being overly preachy about it either. It sidelines the portions of the story that show this so that the reader has to find them rather than having the message thrust upon them. The highlight of this is when the US Secretary is shown standing in a plot of green surrounded by fields of grey death. I like this because both the message and the discovery of the message remain very rewarding for the reader.
The worst part of the book’s story is that it is too short. Character deaths almost mean nothing because we have only known them for a matter of minutes or pages. Brian K. Vaughan is usually able to manage death pretty masterfully in a way that shows it can happen to anyone, but it just does not work as well in this shorter graphic novel. In something like Saga, he is able to string out a character’s story so that we can learn about them and connect to them before they die. However, in We Stand on Guard he only has a few pages to make you connect to a character before their untimely death. This works in some cases, especially with the main character, but does not for most of them. It leaves character deaths feeling somewhat hollow and meaningless, which is the opposite of what they should be.
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The art is probably one of the most off-putting aspects of this work as it does not exactly fit the theme of the work very well. Steve Skroce’s art does look very nice; however it simply feels as if it should be in a different book than this one. This story is brutal, dark, and depressing, yet the art does not really convey any of this. I personally think that a more realistic styled art would have worked a lot better for this specific book.
However, this is not to say that the art is bad. It actually looks very nice and is overall very visually pleasing. Pages where the mechs are show over the Canadian wilderness look absolutely stunning and each character’s art also serves to develop their personality even better. All in all, the art is great, just maybe not for this specific series.
This comic is published by Image Comics, a creator owned publishing company who’s titles do not often crossover with each other. Thus this title, like many other Image Comics, maintains its own continuity. This means you will receive everything you need to understand the story in this book.