Brian K. Vaughan and Steve Skroce bring their excellent futuristic military thriller to an end in “We Stand On Guard” #6, as the Canadian resistance group known as the Two Four mount their final assault on the occupying American forces. Since the catastrophic events that kicked off the series, readers have been waiting for an explanation of who was behind that initial attack, and Vaughan provides some answers, although not definitive ones. Even so, the questions that remain are the stuff of modern day political arguments, where each side believes themselves to be correct and the actual truth may never be known. The ambiguity is also fodder for a follow-up series, as the deadly aftermath of this issue’s battle leaves plenty of room for a sequel.
Much of the cast hasn’t survived into the finale, so Vaughan gives himself the opportunity to spend a little more time on those that remain with some poignant, emotional moments. Resistance member and former actor Les LePage becomes the voice of victory for a national and possibly worldwide audience (readers who also speak French will have an advantage in understanding the full scope of his speech), and Amber Roos has her high-stakes showdown with the American, who’s largely been the face of U.S. operations in the series. As he has done in past issues, Vaughan makes indirect reference to Superman co-creator Joe Shuster, who had Canadian heritage, and whom members of the resistance also make comparisons to. Amber, an orphan who lost her homeland, makes one very direct and pointed comparison between herself and the Man of Steel, which is probably the character highlight of the issue.
One of Skroce’s many strengths has been his frighteningly realistic array of futuristic military vehicles employed by the U.S., and — with all of that largely unveiled in past issues — he sticks to conveying Vaughan’s story in the finale. Still, he still has plenty of opportunities for some big budget moments, by way of some dynamically structured layouts. Skroce does get more opportunity to show off his skills beyond drawing impressive military hardware; he adds a futuristic flair to urban landscapes as well, all while rendering the timeless beauty of nature with equal dexterity. Colorist Matt Hollingsworth’s enhancements make all of it look beautiful, breathtaking or alarming, depending on the context.
In the end, Vaughan leaves readers questioning just who the good guys are; the Americans were blatantly shown as the villains throughout, but whether they were the only ones is left up to readers to decide. The disastrous and ominous conclusion points fingers all around, and readers can decide for themselves who’s to blame. The ambiguity might sound like an unsatisfying ending, but the questions it raises are compelling; questions don’t go unanswered, but instead are given multiple possible answers. These possibilities are what beg to be explored in a future series, should there be one.
“We Stand on Guard” #6 is a fitting and natural conclusion to Vaughan and Skroce’s series, yet one that has its share of surprises and keeps readers thinking even after it’s all over.