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Comic Book / We Stand on Guard

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We Stand on Guard is a 2015 comic book miniseries written by Brian K. Vaughan, drawn by Steve Skroce (Cable, Spider-Man), coloured by Matt Hollingsworth (Alias, Hawkeye), lettered by Fonografiks, and published by Image Comics.

In the year 2112, The White House is destroyed by unknown assailants. While the world speculates, the United States launches a surprise attack on Canada, destroying the capital of Ottawa in an instant and swiftly occupying the rest of the country.

Twelve years later, Amber Roos, who was orphaned in the attack on Ottawa, is now a subsistence hunter in the Northwest Territories, hoping to someday find and rescue her captive brother Thomas. There, she meets up with the Two-Fours, a motley crew of freedom fighters looking to strike back at the American occupation.


  • Abandoned Mine: The Two-Fours' home base is a partially-collapsed shaft near Yellowknife.
  • Action Girl: All the female members of the Two-Fours are some degree of combat adept, led by the former Chief of Police for Regina, Victoria McFadden.
  • Artificial Limbs: Dunn has one, as well as a nasty facial scar. Where he obtained them specifically has not been addressed.
  • Attack Drone: The Americans use a lot of them, the dog-like "Dogs Of War" being the most normally seen. The reasons the Two-Fours' base has remained hidden as long as it did was because satellite surveillance is nearly impossible due to a huge amount of debris in orbit (several characters mention the U.S.A. and China destroying each others satellites and presumably never replacing them), and moving around when the climate makes it hard to send aerial drones (which the U.S.A. hasn't managed to modify for operating in cold temperatures). The Humongous Mecha they capture also resembles a super-big Dog Of War, and up until their unpleasant discovery via Sacrificial Lamb, they thought that it was a drone.
  • Awesome Personnel Carrier: The Two-Fours' assault vehicle is a cobbled-together example, liberated from the Alberta oil sands and extensively modified to pack a punch.
  • Bilingual Bonus: Les LePage's dialogue is in untranslated French, though it can be apparent what he's saying from context.
  • Black Dude Dies First: Averted. Les LePage is one of the three Two-Fours to survive.
  • Canada, Eh?: Canadian stereotypes are occasionally played with, but mostly averted, though many identifiable pieces of Canadiana (CBC, Tim Hortons, the Parliament building) are used to anchor the setting.
  • Canadian Equals Hockey Fan: Invoked by Dunn, who demands that Amber tell him who won the last Stanley Cup in 2111 as a form of Trust Password. Subverted, as Amber hates hockey, and also was only five when it happened. note 
  • Crusading Widow: Dunn lost his husband Paul in the Battle of Brunswick, and now fights with the Two-Fours.
  • Day of the Jackboot: Let's just say that the United States don't feel like applying The Laws and Customs of War on this series.
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?: An American soldier is seen calling Canadians "moosefuckers". "Goatfuckers/Camelfuckers" was a common nickname for Iraqis and Afghans given by American servicemembers deployed to the Middle-East.
  • Eagleland: The warmongering "Boorish" flavour.
  • Elite Mooks: The Navy SEALs.
  • Expanded States of America: The United States occupies all but the northernmost reaches of Canada within three years of the first strike.
  • False Flag Operation: Subverted as Amber, like many, is convinced the U.S. military destroyed the White House themselves just to give the excuse to invade Canada. In her confrontation with the American general, she's shown video footage of the head of the Canadian Armed Forces confessing that Canada did indeed launch the attack as a first strike against the U.S.' coming invasion. The U.S. commander literally laughs at the idea her country ever wanted to attack Canada in the first place. It's possible though that the Canadian general was tortured into a false confession, and in the end the truth is left ambiguous.
  • Fair Cop: Vic, who was Chief of Police in Regina prior to the Occupation.
  • Fictional Geneva Conventions: The London Convention, which is not elaborated upon beyond "no killing prisoners of war."
  • Gaia's Lament: The US are in the early stage of this, hence the need for Canadian water. Likely to become even worse at the end when the entire Great Slave Lake is poisoned to force the Americans to leave.
  • Global Warming:
    • Dialogue suggests that global warming has ruined the American breadbasket, leading to a need for Canadian water.
    • Dunn tells Amber that because the weather wrecked their existing habitats, coyotes and wolves wound up breeding together, producing his "coywolf", Hungry.
  • Grey-and-Gray Morality: the Americans waging a brutal occupation to steal Canadian water vs. the Two Fours killing a surrendering and unarmed American soldier and consciously releasing a very large amount of arsenic into the surrounding environment to keep the Americans from getting said water.
  • Hoist by Their Own Petard: LePage mentions this by name during the final battle after Qabanni shoots the lead U.S. tanker with an American mech.
  • Humongous Mecha: The American occupation force includes these, because it's the future and why not.
  • Hunter of His Own Kind: The American reveals that her nickname is actually somewhat ironic, as she was actually born in Canada herself (her parents moved to New York when she was young due to Canada's increased isolationism, according to her).
  • I Don't Like the Sound of That Place: Invoked by the American administrator. "Why the hell would anyone call something 'Great Slave Lake'?" note 
  • La RĂ©sistance: The Two-Fours are this to the Americans' The Empire.
  • Last-Second Word Swap: Correcting the American administrator's pronunciation of "Regina":
    Victoria McFadden: "Ra-gee-nah?" Try again, stupid. My hometown rhymes with cunt.
  • Last Stand: Vic attempts this in Issue #2 after being surrounded by American soldiers. She guns down one but he survives; she gets shot up pretty swiftly thereafter. On top of that, she survives her wounds and winds up a captive.
  • Macross Missile Massacre: The initial assault on Ottawa.
  • No Blood for Phlebotinum:
    • It's widely speculated in-universe that the attack on Canada was really for its fresh water.
    • It's mentioned that there is civil unrest in the US over the occupation of Canada, and it's likely to become even worse if the Two-Fours version of events makes it to the US public.
  • Only Known by Their Nickname: The Two-Fours' vehicle specialist, Highway.
  • Overnight Conquest: The Canadian Armed Forces got wiped out in the first week of the war. The Americans swiftly marched through most of Canada.
  • Parental Incest: During her interrogation, Vic never cracks from simulated pain (being dunked into a pool of burning gasoline over and over), but when The American uploads a new simulation, of her father saying that he always wanted to make love to her, she instantly breaks. Whether or not this means anything like that happened in her real life is left ambiguous.
  • Pet the Dog: After the particularly repulsive Virtual-Reality Interrogation she inflicted on Vic, the American commander orders the Torture Technicians to play a pleasant simulation.
  • Promotion to Parent: Amber's brother Tommy, after their parents are killed by the American first strike. He even gets told, "you look after your baby sister" by his dying father.
  • Rebel Leader: Vic until her capture. In Issue #3, it becomes an ad hoc democracy.
  • Room 101: The "basement", where the Virtual-Reality Interrogation takes place.
  • Sacrificial Lamb: Booth, who's shot in the throat by the American pilot of the Humongous Mecha the Two-Fours take down in Issue #1.
  • Shoot Your Mate: Vic suggests that Amber kill the American pilot of the Humongous Mecha they just brought down to prove her loyalty. While the other Two-Fours debate the merits of this, she goes ahead and shoots him.
  • Shout-Out: Many, predominantly to Canadian media/culture.
    • The name of the series is a reference to the lyrics of the Canadian national anthem, "O Canada".
    • The year of the attack on the White House, 2112, is the 300th anniversary of the War of 1812, though the actual burning of the White House came in 1814, and as Amber's father points out, Canada didn't even exist at the time; that was done by the British.
      • It is also the name of a seminal album by Canadian prog-rock trio Rush.
    • The Littlest Robo is a nod to The Littlest Hobo.
    • The Two-Fours are a nod to the slang term for a case of twenty-four beers in Canada.
    • The name of the letters column, "Threepenny Beaver" is a reference to the first Canadian stamp.
  • Shower Scene: In Issue #2, Amber gets her first real shower in a long time. There is a gratuitous butt shot along the way, but nothing more explicit.
    • The Peeping Tom: Amber assumes Dunn is this, but actually he's a) gay, and b) specifically looking for scars that would indicate the Americans might've implanted a Tracking Device into her at some point without her knowledge.
  • Silence Is Golden: The action sequence in which the Two-Fours defeat a Humongous Mecha in Issue #1 is six wordless pages, save for a small number of subtle Written Sound Effects.
  • Teens Are Monsters: Played with. During the main story, Amber is 18, and 12 years of trying to survive during time of war has changed her from an innocent little girl to a cold-hearted killer who doesn't hesitate to shoot a prisoner of war, finish off a wounded man, or commit suicide if it means crippling her enemies operation.
  • This Is a Drill: American Dog of War attacks Amber with one in Issue #1.
  • Token Minority: Les LePage is the only Francophone in the group, though everyone seems to have a passing knowledge of French (and he of English).
  • Torture Always Works:
    • Averted in Issue #1 when the Two-Fours decide not to interrogate a captured American pilot, explicitly stating that torture's never worked for them, anyway.
    • Subverted in Issue #3 when the Americans fail to break their detainee by torture, instead resorting to threatening to have a computer simulation of her father threaten to rape her. One Torture Technician even admits that they usually kick up a false lead or two along the way.
  • Villains Never Lie: Played with. The American may or may not be telling the truth about the beginning of the war (and the actual truth may not be known by anyone), but does pull the "torture will stop once you cooperate" card. When she realizes physical pain won't work, she goes into mental/emotional territory and threatens Vic with being raped by the simulation of her father. When that immediately breaks Vic's resistance, The American stops the program at once.
  • Virtual-Reality Interrogation: Used by the Americans to extract information from their captives, usually by simulating being burned alive and/or drowning until they give in. For Vic, this nearly evolves into literal Mind Rape once her father's brought into the picture.
  • Would Harm a Senior: The American soldiers barging in the (heavily implied to be) innocent old couple's house have no problem bashing the guy's face with the butt of his rifle.
  • Your Terrorists Are Our Freedom Fighters: The Americans obviously view the Two-Fours as terrorists, while they and other Canadians view themselves as freedom fighters liberating themselves from occupation.