Volume One of Dan Butcher’s Vanguard collects the first five issues of his web comic creation and introduces us to the UK’s own Metahuman team.
Opening just as a plane is experiencing some difficulties & comes crashing down into Burma with some VIP’s that need rescuing before we’re introduced to the The Vanguard team in the midst of their latest PR stunt. They are quickly whisked away from the crowds and head for Burma to take care of this “minor” matter that’s a simple rescue mission…..at least that’s what they think.
The team soon find out that their mission is the catalyst for a shit storm of epic proportions as poor, almost non-existent intel drops the team into the middle of a war zone. It soon becomes evident that while the European & American military try to retain some sort of global balance, the world itself is struggling on the brink of desperation as hunger & stretched budgets leave the masses clambering for survival. It’s an interesting and much more relevant backdrop now more than ever but it all sets the tone for a story of superheroes in the real world who are battling the media, their own allies & even their own team-mates as they try to make a difference.
This many ideas could have gotten very messy very quick but Dan paces the story so well that the mistakes the cast make are understandable and the challenge of bringing things back from the edge of annihilation are in the right hands. Although even that becomes increasingly difficult as internal betrayals, spying missions & other super-teams all add their own destructive influences on The Vanguard. These events flow well together and the multi-layered story has a strong sense of purpose to it. Far from messy and no detail seems shoe-horned in for the sake of it so there’s not a wasted panel in sight.
The success of any superhero story, especially from the small press scene, is ALWAYS going to hinge on the quality of the story and while it’s a little bit of A-Team meets Avengers from the start, there’s a number of nods to action movies of the 80’s & 90’s that helps separate this from being a like for like comparison with any other mainstream superhero team-up from the big two. In fact, it ends up being far less superficial than your standard Superhero affair as the characters are built from the ground up and you can see the cracks in the relationships that make it all the more realistic. That direction from Dan means it’s an intricate world he’s served up with an ever-improving edge to his art that coasts through these first five issues.
A strong cast, an increasingly engaging story from issue to issue and a constant feeling of being built-up to the next reveal gives this a momentum that leaves you clamouring for the next issue when you read that “to be continued”. Even better news is that a second volume should hit print this year at some point and a potential volume one reprint….good news that means I can get caught up soon or just head over to the website to catch up on what he’s produced so far……it all depends on whether my patience will hold out…no promises.