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COMIC BOOK REVIEW: We Stand On Guard #1



Story by: Brian K. Vaughan
Art by: Steve Skroce
Colors by: Matt Hollingsworth
4.5/ 5

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America’s the BAD GUY; Steve Skroce’s RETURN to Comics; awesome illustrations Brian’s excellent storytelling, characterizations and dialogues


Graphic and disturbing imageries; America as the “Bad Guy”

To sum it all up..

GO, TEAM CANADA! As far as I’m concerned, Americans or the United States of America in every media should be portrayed positively, no matter what. This statement is no assumption, it is the norm in showing the US of A as the Liberator, Freedom Fighter, so-called Champion, and of course, as the Number One or […]

Posted July 3, 2015 by




As far as I’m concerned, Americans or the United States of America in every media should be portrayed positively, no matter what. This statement is no assumption, it is the norm in showing the US of A as the Liberator, Freedom Fighter, so-called Champion, and of course, as the Number One or The Greatest nation of all. In both entertainment and comics, America saves lives, Uncle Sam solves problems, and Americans are often “right”. So rarely, if not sacrilegious nor taboo, is America portrayed in the bad to worse light ever. So rare these negative images about the USA are soon to be forgotten or left in the gutters of the collective consciousness (with the sure exceptions of militant radicals and activists who label USA such nastiness). Look at some of the greatest films ever made, Apocalypse Now, Platoon, Full-Metal Jacket and Rambo. USA fought and lost the Vietnam War, but these films focused more on the hardships and psychological tortures the American troops endured (well, with some atrocities they committed due to racial issues and/or stress, as well). These movies are more remembered on the directors, stellar performances, and some heart-wrenching moments, not on America’s defeat per se. But Brian K. Vaughan wants to test the limits of comic storytelling yet again in his new independent series, WE STAND ON GUARD #1, alongside with legendary artist Steve Skroce.

Similar to BKV’s well-known creator-owned masterpieces Y: The Last Man, Ex Machina, Pride of Baghdad, and Saga, We Stand on Guard starts with the conflict in huge proportion: CANADA versus the UNITED STATES of AMERICA! Yes, Brian does the unthinkable, the most unholy of unholy, and the moment of comic truth! The Americans are the aggressors, the invaders, and logically, the BAD GUYS! They crush the last remaining organized military forces of Canada, and they are dealing with the country’s last guerilla forces, very similar to our Philippine experience: the Fil-Am (Filipino-American) War, 1898-1901, where the American military might destroyed the Revolutionary Forces until the former confronted several pockets of guerilla resistance in different parts provinces of the Philippines even when the American-led Macabebe force captured the leader Emilio Aguinaldo in March 1901. Parallelisms are seen also with the Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan Wars that show striking images of American bombings on civilian or non-belligerent territories (and to think that there are the so-called LAWS OF WAR or the Geneva Convention that “humanize” war. Humans are all too human!). The gore and the smell of napalm on victimized innocent civilians (but the American government and military label that as “collateral damages” to lessen the gravity of their violence or applied exclusively on non-American citizens, instead of “victims of war”). Those images and the comic’s set-up pave the way of the story’s protagonist (or antagonist?), Amber, the true victim of war. The timeline is set in the far future where America has no viable resources and done the unthinkable — imperialize the still-abundant fertile lands of Canada. As said, the only left standing is the group called “Two-Four”. It’s David versus Goliath all over again.

The dialogues are as sharp as the razor-sharp double-edged samurai sword. This is a no political-correct nonsense that uncovers the true nature of the belligerent and the conquered in the most mundane way, but still holds the lyrical and even eloquent in Brian’s hands. In the midst of a conflict, banters and humor are present but the most illuminating of all is the conversation between Amber and Oscar Booth. While treating the former’s wound, Booth tells her something most Americans then, now, and the far future does not know or being ignorant at all: one of Superman’s creators is Canadian. Not only that, Vaughan says the “horseshit” truth about how the comic company who owns the Man of Steel and twisted the image to American standards, and neglected the Canadian creator. Furthermore, Brian, in the character’s dialogues, makes an analogy of the existing conflicting countries on Metropolis (America) and Krypton (Canada). The former is like a nation ruled under corporate greed under the villainous Lex Luthor, while the latter brings in talented personalities to the former (like Todd MacFarlane, John Byrne, Jim Carrey and Steve Skroce to name a few). What an indictment indeed, Brian! I’m very, very sure this premier issue would create a stir or controversy, particularly on American conservatives and anyone who downplays Canada’s tremendous contributions to American pop culture (Superman’s a motherfucking Canadian” statement… HELL YEAH!).

Speaking of Skroce, his illustrations alone would blow off everyone’s mind. Despite his relative old age and years of inactiveness in the comic medium, Skroce’s insanely minute detailed and carefully deft drawings can make the younger artists awe and even so proof that some artists get getting better with age, like the best tasting wines around. His gigantic robotic (almost “mecha”, I say) wolf illustrations are so detailed to the tiniest details, like the cannons and other small armaments. His illustrations on women are not stereotyped either. Drawn of having distinctive characterizations, some of the ladies here may be influential or closely relatable to some female readers around; even their facial expressions are some of the artist’s best takes for the long time. Not stopping on women, but also with males’ facial features and other intricate details that may elude for some artists around. The cynical face of Dune, the jolly and optimistic view of Booth, the suave and sophisticated take on LePage, and the determined but gloomy face of Highway are virtually pitched perfect that make the book’s characterizations accessible. Moreover, colorist Matt Hollingsworth almost outdoes himself for he virtually captures the ambiance of the conflict with his brand of coloring that separates him from most of his counterparts. He beautifully encapsulates the beauty of the Canadian wilderness in the middle of the guerilla war, including the coloring of the American robotic suits and armaments as well. The graphic bright colors of blood, wounds and gore are real one can aesthetically smell the flesh out of Matt’s colors alone. This book makes you PART of the story.

If only one can find faults here, here are the following. One, the French-to-English translation of LePage’s dialogue is a bit tedious for non-French readers around. I admit I can pick-up some of the French words around, but not all comic readers know the Quebec-French tongue at all. Second, despite Skroce’s awesome arts, he misses out the Superman’s “S” insignia on Booth’s upper right arm consistently. It appears once, but in a succeeding panel, the “S” is completely left out or disappeared. Third, as said above, some readers may take offense on the appearances of graphic gore, mutilations and blood that are basically present during wars, battles, and other armed conflicts throughout military histories. For the weak and pacifist types, stay away and leave this new graphic masterpiece alone from critical nonsense. And, I smell strong criticisms from the far right and conservative ranks who want America the perpetual “GOOD GUY” or “The Liberators”.

We Stand On Guard #1 is a promising and worthy start of a great comic series. Potential twists and turns and intriguing stories are already in-placed for readers to get invested for months, no, years to come. Moreover, Skroce is the primary artist and we can expect more on his one of the kind illustrations beyond the first issue. And, this is an uneasy read for sensitive types, but a bold step to thought-provoking reading experience nonetheless.

Paul Ramos



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