Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Reader's Diary #1320- Brian K. Vaughan (writer), Steve Skroce (artist): We Stand on Guard

I've long been amused of how many Canadian collaborators American comics writer Brian K. Vaughan has worked with. But with the Canada-love he exhibits in We Stand on Guard, I'm thinking it's just high time he moves here.

We Stand on Guard is set about 100 years in the future when the US has taken war on Canada. In the news media it's shown to be the retaliation against Canadian terrorists, which may or may not be true, but in any case, taking over our water resources is the gravy on top. Having exhausted most of Canada's more southern lakes, the US has set its sights on Great Slave Lake in the Northwest Territories, the 10th largest lake in the world and deepest in North America. But a small band of resistance fighters who make Yellowknife their home won't give up easily.

The story and art is just great. Like the best futuristic sci-fi, it plays on current fears. Not that we're trembling in the fetal position or anything (okay, with Trump this close to power, maybe we are), but we definitely realize that we're living next to a country whose military makes ours look... cute. We also realize that we have have a lot of freshwater resources while many parts of the US are running short. Canadian Steve Skroce was a great choice to illustrate the tale, with his realistic but expressive characters and over-the-top military machinery with its crisp lines and Pacific Rimish aesthetics.

It was interesting to read this as a Canadian because at times it felt almost too much, Canadiana to the point of parody. But then, we see so little comics set in Canada that seeing a Tim Hortons sign in the background seems like a joke when it's just realistic. Not to say that there wasn't any outright pandering, but when the book opens in the year 2112 they're forgiven.

As a Yellowknifer I was also blown away by the detail and significance of this town to the plot. I knew ahead of time that Yellowknife was featured but I had no idea how heavily. References to very specific things like Ingraham Trail and Giant Mine (with its deadly arsenic reserves) was unexpected surprise that almost left me giddy.

Not that every detail is perfect. There appears, for instance, to be trees outside of an operating base in Baker Lake, Nunavut, which don't currently exist. This could be explained away by global warming, I suppose, except that Yellowknife doesn't seem to have been affected the same way. Also, there is a scene showing a headframe of a Giant Mine shaft (the same one that I'm reading in front of in the header bar), but that particular shaft was demolished last year.

Still, these are small potatoes and I still immensely enjoyed this book. While it pretty well wrapped up, I'd still love to see a sequel of some sort. There was a brief reference to pirates off the coast of Newfoundland. I want to read that! (And Mr. Vaughan, if you're looking for a consultant, Newfoundland was my home for the first 24 years of my life...)


Nikki in Niagara said...

I've wanted to read this! Now I know I must!

John Mutford said...

You definitely have to!