by Courtney Ryan. Canada wants us to pay attention, America! Maybe it’s the cooler air, or the handsome prime minister, or the absence of a megalomaniac hijacking their national election. Or maybe it’s the way Drake somehow makes being a dork cool. Either way, every time our friendly neighbors to the north spread their feathers, the plumage looks pretty darn appealing.
The latest display of Canada’s stateliness comes from Chapterhouse Comics, a publisher that’s steadily reviving some of the classic made-in-Canada superhero comics of yore. Leading the charge was the maple leaf-clad Captain Canuck, who returned to the web in 2013 and came out with entirely new issues in 2015, and this summer we get Anthony Falcone’s and Ron Salas’ Northguard #1. If Captain Canuck asked Canadians to participate in their nation’s patriotism, then Northguard is asking Americans to look up from ours.
Based on cartoonist Mark Shainblum and writer/artist Gabriel Morrissette’s 1984 deconstructionist superhero Philip Wise, Falcone’s iteration is a reluctant superhero caught up in a world where espionage knows no borders and Canadian-American relations are being pushed toward the global stage. Something tells me that Wise would rather drink a shaken martini with someone named Pussy Galore than don a spandex costume, but here he is anyway, assisting the CIA by infiltrating a nutjob religious cult with top political ties and a dangerous love of fire. He has the gadgets and the gravitas, but doesn’t quite know how to work everything yet. What’s more, he isn’t so sure the cult, ominously named Aurora Dawn, is worth tangling with.
Even without its present-day political subtext the comic is a lot of fun. The action sequences contain some delightfully corny Stan Lee–inspired banter and Falcone sprinkles enough Quebecois and jokes about the metric system throughout to remind us we aren’t in America anymore. Aurora Dawn’s obsession with exterrestrial life and Wise’s hi-tech costume suggest this series might take off to some unpredictable places. Though free of retro nostalgia, Ron Salas’ illustrations still manage to feel timeless to the point that I wondered for a second if this was the 1980s version. Irma Knivila’s colors keep the action captivating, fiery, and Canadian—some text boxes are shaped like maple leaves.
Northguard #1 doesn’t completely overhaul the original series, nor does it deconstruct the superhero genre in a fresh way, but it’s attention-grabbing, playful, and plain ol’ Canadian fun. What do Americans have to lose?
Chapterhouse Comics / $3.99
Written by Anthony Falcone.
Illustrated by Ron Salas.
Colors by Irma Knivila.
Letters by Ed Brisson.
7.5 out of 10