Northguard #2 Review
Written by Anthony Falcone
Art by Ron Salas, Eric Kim
Colours by Juancho
Letters by Ryan Ferrier
Review by Billy Seguire
I haven’t developed strong feelings yet towards Phillip Wise, the stalwart hero behind the mask of Northguard #2. I feel I don’t know him, that the heroics of the book are just his job. But I know I want to follow his story. The fact that he’s the kind of hero who doesn’t ordinarily get a book of his own is part of what makes Northguard feel so unique. It’s a conscious effort to keep Wise at a professional distance that has mixed effects on this book from writer Anthony Falcone. As it stands, Northguard is a hero who doesn’t pander to a crowd. A solo agent working for the government agenda, he’s here to get things done.
We open on an introduction to CIA headquarters in the Nevada desert. Impressive even by secret underground base standards, the room extends as far as the eye can see, with dedicated staff and satellite feeds giving off an air of governmental efficiency. Garcia’s “Canada Room” is an intentionally painful thing to look at, with hockey sticks and muskoka chairs meant to make Northguard feel at home instead bordering on outright parody of Canadian culture. It’s one of the standout moments comedy in Northguard #2 as the hero interacts with the nearly entirely American staff of the CIA. Dr. Cape is also here acting as Northquard’s Q. Adding a chameleon program to the Northguard suit, we’re only just beginning to expand on the Uniband’s capabilities, and it feels organic and natural to the story. With more stealth options available, this does seem like a feature that would be useful to a secret agent, deftly visualized by Eric Kim.
Once in the field, Northguard #2 is almost immediately taken over by Kebec, the crack-shot sniper featured in the regular cast of Captain Canuck and the end of Northguard #1. This is by no means a bad thing as Kebec is an awesome character. Strong and powerful, Kebec projects a steely confidence in everything she does. Possibly surprising for foreign readers, her lines are also almost entirely in french. These interjections are mostly small phrases, but enough to enrich the experience if you know what’s being said. Northguard #2 is unafraid to feature her heavily in its bilingual cast. I would love to see this taken one step further with an exclusively francophone Kebec comic considered as a possibility, either as a one-shot or miniseries sometime in the future, as this book did so much to make me see her as a leading woman.
Kebec is also an objectively beautiful woman. While the art does not shy away from that fact, she is always shown primarily as a fighter and is drawn especially effectively in a style that emphasises her strength and agility in tactical circumstances, without ever taking opportunities to simply to show her off or objectify her figure. She truly stands out as a character. She doesn’t fear. When a gun is pressed against her head, she doesn’t even flinch or hesitate to come back at her attacker swinging punches. Without spoiling the circumstances, the way Kebec and Northguard team up is fantastic. The two fight alongside one another in a truly equal partnership. Serious shades of Fury Road’s Max and Furiosa are present in these characters, and I love how Chapterhouse has been using Kebec as a bridge between Captain Canuck and Northguard in these early issues.
Colour is skillfully applied by Juancho and shows a dedicated thought process that has been put into its use. Influenced by the presence of Kebec in the story, Northguard #2 is washed in blue. Whether it’s the clear night sky of the forest, cold steel of an underground bunker, or the clouds of smoke that plume from one of Kebec’s grenades, the primary colour of the issue is constantly visible and helps give Northguard #2 a consistent voice. The lone exception to this is a short scene where orange and reds overwhelm the palate to note a change in power as the pair are overtaken by Aurora Dawn and put into genuine danger. The subtle trick really makes you perceive this change on a subconscious level. The fact that this constant use of blue also makes Northguard’s costume really pop against the backgrounds doesn’t hurt either.
The final scenes of the book finally give us some insight to Wise, as he seems absolutely honest with both Kebec and himself. Make removed, you get much more of the pencil-pusher quality in Wise though his own facial expressions and thinning hairline than you can make out while the character is in costume. While I stand by still not getting a real sense of him, you feel the dedication and duty to his country that keeps him motivated, along with a strong push against everything Michael Evans represents. For all the posturing and destruction around him, Northguard really just wants to do some good.
Buy It. When you see Kebec on the cover of a Chapterhouse book, you need to buy it. This is a serious recommendation. While I don’t think Northguard himself or the story really did anything too impressive here, Northguard #2 is a beautiful spotlight for a female character who holds her own within the book and deserves to shine. The use of colour is impressively effective, the cult of Aurora Dawn continues to be a formidable threat to both Canada and the US. I hope to see this book thrive in new and interesting ways.