Stormtrooper Terry

Stormtrooper Terry

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Marvel Takes a Really Awesome Stand

As some people know, I'm a sucker for apocalyptic religious fiction; movies like "The Prophecy" or "Legion" or the fourth and fifth seasons of Supernatural. With that in mind, it should come as no surprise that I love Stephen King's epic 823-page masterpiece, The Stand, as well as the equally epic and massive 1994 8-hour mini-series based on it. I swear, it's like that series is shown on Chiller every two weeks or so and I usually find myself watching at least some of it every time it's on. So, when Marvel Comics announced that as part of their ongoing relationship with Stephen King (they've already done multiple different stories around The Dark Tower as well as a really amazing adaptation of N.) I was really excited.

Written from start to finish by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa (whose past includes work on Nightcrawler, Sensational Spider-Man, and Fantastic Four; he's also the guy who rewrote the Spidey musical that has become a major success) and drawn in it's entirety by Mike Perkins (who has previously done art chores for Captain America as well as X-Men and Avengers mini-series), Marvel's version of The Stand is just as epic as the versions that came before, clocking it at a total of 31 issues spread out over five five-issue series and a final six-issue series. The first of those series, Captain Trips, focuses on the outbreak and spread of the disease that decimates almost all of humanity, and introduces the majority of the main characters, including, at the conclusion, the menacing Randall Flagg.

The second series, American Nightmares, focuses on the various survivors gathering together, whether they are the heroes or the villains being corrupted by the Walking Dude, as seen above as he saves Lloyd from having to eat a rat. There's some really gruesome stuff in this book, folks. This series also features a really visually stunning version of the harrowing Lincoln Tunnel scene, of which I'll say no more to avoid spoilers for the uninitiated.

Soul Survivors gives us more of the characters uniting and traveling together, in scenes that include a very impromptu appendix removal. It also focuses more on Mother Abigail, who is pretty much God's voice on Earth in the story and therefore the exact opposite of Randall Flagg. It's no wonder he sends wolves to torment her and her poor cornfields. If there's one thing horror movies have taught us, going all the way back to The Twilight Zone, it's that nothing good happens in the cornfields.

The fourth series, Hardcases, alternates between the slightly dull forming of the Boulder Free Zone, home of all the good guys in the story, by focusing more on the villains of the piece... from the aforementioned Lloyd to the Kid, from Nadine's corruption by Flagg to Harold's growing paranoia and resentment, all the way to the Trashcan Man, who definitely has his part to play in the story. Hardcases takes what even King has admitted is a lull in the narrative force of the story and keeps the gripping tension going the whole way through.

No Man's Land is where everything starts to happen, and my descriptions will get even sparer so as not to give too much away... Nadine and Harold... the Free Zone Committee... the spies... the bomb... heading West, to Las Vegas...

Everything comes to an end in The Night Has Come, the final issue of which came out yesterday. I'll leave all the details out, except to say that it was fantastic from start to finish, just like the entire adaptation. The writing changes enough to make it feel fresh while keeping enough of King's original lines to keep it from ever feeling like a different story. The art is both gritty and realistic, a perfect fit for a story that takes place on the edge of armageddon the entire time.

In conclusion, Marvel's adaptation of The Stand is a great comic book, and a great entry comic to draft book readers into the world of comics. While it never surpasses King's original work because, well, how could it, it does use all the strengths comics as a visual medium provide to elevate the story to a different level, while hitting all the highlights of the original and raising all the same issues and moral questions... can man change? Will history repeat itself? Does evil ever go away? I don't have the answers, but there's one thing I do know.

M-O-O-N... that spells good comics.


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