PrintE-mail Written by Alister Davison

This premier volume of Vanguard collects the first five issues of the webcomic of the same name. Created, written and illustrated by Dan Butcher, it's a good package, starting with a warm introduction by the author, and finishing with profiles for each of the team members. The story kicks off with a bang, throwing our heroes into a secret mission, to rescue a politician’s daughter.

In the introduction, Butcher admits his art has improved over the six years that he's been producing Vanguard, and it really shows. In early chapters, characters have muscles on their muscles, while later page layouts are a sublime example of creator growing in both talent and confidence. Even from the beginning, though, there are some superb splash pages featuring London landmarks, and the use of a fictional broadcasting corporation provides a summary of necessary information along with a dose of humour. It's a wit that is interspersed throughout the whole work, whether it is in dialogue or situation, but especially in the mock newspapers and advertisements between issues.

The start of the story is fairly heavy with exposition, as it needs to be, but hopefully this won’t put off readers. The action soon gets underway as we, and the team, begin to realise that their secret mission isn't all it seems. By the half-way point, the entire story shifts up a gear, as Butcher’s writing gets more assured, coming into its own to show a world taking several turns for the worse. The fifth issue, a spy story sprinkled with the effects of these changes on the personal lives of the team members, is triumphant storytelling, leaving the reader hungry for more, especially after being given tantalising hints of what is to come.

Fortunately there's plenty more to be had, with a second volume hopefully out this year that will feature issues six to nine, but for those who can't wait, the story can be seen on Butcher’s website, which also contains fan art and an insight into its creator. This print volume is a perfect accompaniment to the site, which will hopefully give Butcher’s work the further attention it deserves. While it has a somewhat shaky start, Butcher soon finds his own voice in both script and art, offering readers a multi-layered story that is not only packed with action, but also characters that grow and develop as the pages progress. 


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