We Stand on Guard Quick Review: A Pretty Mechwarrior Canada Lacking Depth

mech overlooks a train with us flag pasted over canadian flag
Pwned

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An interesting premise, We Stand on Guard features a ragtag band of brothers (and sisters) fighting for freedom against an unusual foe: the USA. Taking place in a near future where water is a scarce resource in the United States and giant mechs form the backbone of the US military, the story tells of a Canada that has been decimated, invaded, and occupied by the US.

Our main characters are a group of Canadian rebels stockpiling war machines as they march toward a single, final battle against the US military. While the art has fantastic amounts of detail, especially on the machines, the character development is weak, which is a shame because it could have strengthened a plot that isn’t very memorable or unique. Though there’s interesting references to Canadian history and culture thrown in, the Canadian setting never really goes beyond window dressing. The comic’s theme is Canada, but it never satisfyingly explores the Canada-USA relationship in meaningful way that reveals any deep insights.

Background

Team

  • Writer: Brian K Vaughan – Most well known for writing Saga, Y: The Last Man, and Paper Girls.
  • Artist: Steve Skroce – Canadian artist who has drawn for Wolverine and other Marvel series in the 90’s to early 00’s, storyboarded for several movies, and recently wrote/drew Maestros for Image Comics
  • Colorist: Matt Hollingsworth – Worked on titles for all the large publishers, with multiple Eisner nominations for Best Colorist. He’s also worked on visual effects for several sci-fi/fantasy/superhero films.
  • Lettering/Design: Fonografiks – Aka designer Steven Finch, he’s worked on several Image titles including Saga, Injection, They’re Not Like Us, and co-created Nowhere Men

Publisher

  • Image Comics

Ratings & Reviews

3 Takeaways

  1. Interesting references to little known Canadian history tidbits and cultural facets – There’s knowing nods to Canadian brands like Tim Horton’s and Eat-More candy bars, while the story gets spiced up with historical notes like War Plan Red (a US war plan for a British invasion launched from Canada), Superman’s Canadian origins, and diverse characters like the French speaking Québécois actor.
  2. Beautifully detailed art, especially on the mechatronic war machines – Skroce’s art contains stunning amounts of detail in several panels, notably on the vehicles and the battle mechs. The designs capture well the shock and awe, high-tech armored approach that embodies US fighting doctrine. Everything looks realistically battle-worn, with an almost tedious-to-draw amount of detail.
  3. Shallow character development compounds with a somewhat generic plot, making it hard to really get into the story – Minimal, uneven character development from a over-large cast makes it hard to care about any of them. Amber, the protagonist, develops with jarring rapidity from being a rescued rookie to battle hardened leader of a suicide attack. Because the plot is a fairly standard you-killed-my-family-now-I-kill-you/Dirty Dozen war story, it would have benefited from more memorable characters or execution to hold reader interest. There’s a lack of insightful exploration of Canadian themes or the US-Canada relationship, so it feels almost like watching a bland Hollywood war movie–big budget action, cliches, and not much else. Sure, you have the US’ “we’re the good guys” platitudes depicted and a final-stage reveal that Canadian forces actually attacked the US first, but it doesn’t add much meaning. The final victory rings especially hollow because the rebels win by poisoning all of North America’s (including Canada’s) water supply. I guess the message is everyone is fucked?

Art Samples

menacingly large us 4 legged mech behind soldier talking
Imposing battle-worn mech designs that look shock-and-awe American

futuristic US army drones and robotdogs invade a cave
Robodog drones–makes you think of the new Wolfenstein doesn’t it?

ufo and leviathan looking US airship fortresses hovering in the sky
US overwhelming forces doctrine: aerial war fortresses that look like a cross between a leviathan, a jellyfish, and a UFO.

detailed battlescape in a command room
Drawing this one panel looks like it would give me carpal tunnel syndrome with all those little details drawn in there.

This review is part of the Quick Reviews series. Quick Reviews are concise with standard formatting (and spoilers) that you can read in a about minute to get the gist of our thoughts.

Sunny Mui

Native to the SF Bay area with a decade of Comic Con experience. Reader of books, comics, and more. He also writes short stories and poetry once in a while, when he's feeling to the task. Designer, developer, and marketer by trade, but professional fun person by night.

He's the lead in everything technical when it comes to Destroy the Comics. He built it on WordPress, hardened the security, optimized the page speed performance, implemented search engine optimizations, set up marketing automation tools, and customized the design. When something breaks, he's the guy that either broke it or has to fix it (usually both). He's also the guy coordinating the author team, handling marketing, and sourcing guest content--not to toot his own horn too hard.

A graduate of SFSU with degrees in Marketing and English Literature, he's got experience working in digital marketing agencies, startups, and in his own freelance ventures wearing a multitude of hats in every role. He's currently upping his technical game with a Udacity Nanodegree program in front end web development.
Sunny Mui

Post Author: Sunny Mui

Native to the SF Bay area with a decade of Comic Con experience. Reader of books, comics, and more. He also writes short stories and poetry once in a while, when he's feeling to the task. Designer, developer, and marketer by trade, but professional fun person by night. He's the lead in everything technical when it comes to Destroy the Comics. He built it on Wordpress, hardened the security, optimized the page speed performance, implemented search engine optimizations, set up marketing automation tools, and customized the design. When something breaks, he's the guy that either broke it or has to fix it (usually both). He's also the guy coordinating the author team, handling marketing, and sourcing guest content--not to toot his own horn too hard. A graduate of SFSU with degrees in Marketing and English Literature, he's got experience working in digital marketing agencies, startups, and in his own freelance ventures wearing a multitude of hats in every role. He's currently upping his technical game with a Udacity Nanodegree program in front end web development.

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