Oh Canada, we are a nation of stereotypes. The American media mocks every aspect of our culture, from the patterns of our speech to our incessant politeness. We are constantly portrayed as a quiet and peaceful nation, and while that may be true, we are not without the capacity to push back when instigated. In We Stand On Guard, famed comic writer Brian K. Vaughan examines Canada’s breaking point. The setup for the story is disturbingly believable; 97 years in the future, Canada suffers an attack by their southern neighbours. The United States invade and pillage the land and decimate the population, all for Canada’s most valuable resource: water. There is a post-apocalyptic element as unmanned mechs and drones are the main antagonists of the story as they roam the wastelands, searching for Canadian survivors. The six part mini-series has just kicked off, but it’s already making waves at comic shops and major news outlets.
The first issue is seen through the eyes of a young girl from Ottawa named Amber, who was at ground zero of the original attack. Flash forward 12 years and she is a young woman wandering the vast Canadian north, trying to survive when she meets a group of rebellious freedom fighters who have militarized to defend their country. The team calls themselves the Two-Four (yes, they are specifically referencing beer), and they are assembled from all over the country. The most notable aspect of the Two-Four is that they are all civilians; a doctor and an actor amongst them, and they are Canada’s last line of defense.
The story is brutal, both in its nature and in the telling. Vaughan, who is best known for the science-fiction epic Saga, has felt his way to the root of guerilla combat and produced a script that is filled with visceral reality. The reader is not spared shock as the casualties pile up. Coupled with art from famed storyboard artist Steve Skroce (he was the artist behind storyboards for the Matrix trilogy and I, Robot), the comic is steeped in violence. It is refreshing to find a comic that addresses such important subject matter and does not shy away from the harsh reality. The hard truth is that Canada’s resources are desirable and if push comes to shove, it would be swift and brutal. To see a comic that hypothesizes this potentially devastating future is equally refreshing and terrifying; Vaughan and Skroce do not shy away from the politics and viciousness of war.
If you are worried about how an American writer like Vaughan will portray our strong and free nation, you can put your fears to rest. He may play with our clichés, but every tongue-in-cheek dig is delivered with a wink of reverence. From the naming of squad Two-Four, to a well-placed discourse about Superman’s Canadian origins, Vaughan shows a great deal of respect for Canada and its culture. As Vaughan said himself in an interview with USA Today, “My best friendships and happiest relationships have been with Canadians,” including his wife, an Ottawa native, so we can trust him to do right by the great white North. In his fictional future, we may lose the initial battle, but Vaughan seems to be setting up a group of Canadians who are intrepid enough to win the war. Find out how they fare in issue two, released on August 5