It’s hard to believe it’s been 2 years since the second volume of Dan Butcher’s awesome superhero series Vanguard crossed our paths, and this new volume is a timely reminder of what a fantastic high octane series it has became during this period.
Publisher: Dan Butcher
Writer: Dan Butcher
Artist: Dan Butcher
Dan’s not been resting on his laurels in that time, with the webcomic and collected issues continuing at pace. Volume 3 picks up after the bloodthirsty battle that saw the original Vanguard destroyed and this new volume sees the story move forward several years to a more dystopian world where corruption and greed has been allowed to develop unchecked.
It’s perfect territory for a new generation of Vanguard heroes to develop within and that is the thrust of this new volume, with much of the story built around the arrival of new hero Wolfshead. After the fairly trad superhero fare of the first volume and a half, this hits much darker territory with a book which feels much more like The Authority than The British Avengers. It has a muscular and macho approach to story telling, feeling more like a gritty action movie than a complex morality play as Dan mixes dark cyberpunk satire with violent action, and also a Celtic supernatural undercurrent to create a brilliant mix of styles.
Every page is packed with little satirical nods to social media or corporate brands, while the new characters feel brilliantly over the top, reminding us of the rogues gallery of preposterous heroes and villains who would crop up in a 90s Wildstorm books or issues of Savage Dragon. You can tell Dan is enjoying making all these little elements and it is a better books for this attention to detail.
As well as the story telling levelling up, Dan’s artwork is also really strong in this new volume. His style works perfectly for this kind of book, mixing his cartoonish Darrick Robertson facial expressions with a Photoshop heavy background and colouring style that gives the whole thing a really slick professional feel. (This is augmented even further with an incredible cover from Needleman’s Martin Simpson) At times Dan’s reliance on Photoshop textures can take you out of a page (something which we struggle with in some of his non-Vanguard work), however this is very rare as this style works perfectly for the world Butcher has created. It also means he can mix Celtic magic and high tech weaponry seamlessly without either feeling out of place.
With a longevity and consistent overall quality that is rare in indie superhero comics, Vanguard is up there with The Pride and Death Sentence as one of the very best around. While volume 3 is not always an ideal jumping on point for new readers, the way this part of the story reboots itself is a great place to begin (and then work back) as this is definitely a series that is still on an upward trajectory to even greater heights!