A fitting read for Canada Day weekend, huh? Maybe not a Canadian author, but We Stand On Guard is the graphic novel of Brian K Vaughan, with art by Canadian artist Steve Skroce, and colouring by Matt Hollingsworth. Focused on a future after the bombing of the White House, Canada and America find themselves at war with one another. Canada is almost completely occupied by American forces, with most Canadian citizens working in labour camps for resources to be sent down south to the American people. But of course, there are those who will resist, and continue to resist in both subtle and overt ways to stop whatever injustices they see happening. This is where we meet a group of freedom fighters of the direct-action variety; their fight is the one the novel focuses on, and the whole thing plays out very much like what I’ve seen in many a post-apocalyptic anti-establishment movie.
In all honesty, I can see why this graphic novel works for a lot of people, and the artwork has a definite polish to it that some other works I’ve read don’t have. But in a way, it almost lacked a bit of character because of this. The story, as well, seemed to play out in a reasonably predictable way, with a few interesting twists thrown in there. But there also seemed to be a lot of moments just added for gritty shock, or surprised explosion after surprise explosion, which by the end was tiring to me.
I guess I also didn’t quite grasp anything deeper than the surface explanations for the war: the relationship between Canada and the US is a complex one, and here I didn’t feel like this was being too represented beyond just wanting to show a militaristic, boom-crash fest. Then again, it is in a fictional future, so who is to say what the realities would be at that time. Unfortunately, the story of We Stand On Guard didn’t grab me in a way that I would have liked, and I found it to be a good concept but an uninspired execution.