Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Stand In The Place Where You Live.

After a somewhat shaky first installment, Marvel's adaptation of Stephen King's shelfcracker THE STAND is finding its feet in a really entertaining way. It's not that the first issue was bad, by any stretch--I'm already a big fan of artist Mike Perkins (CAPTAIN AMERICA) and colourist Laura Martin (PLANETARY, ASTONISHING X-MEN), and seeing them work together is a treat--but I felt like Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa was having a hard time getting a handle on the story. Not much of a surprise, when you're adapting an 1100-page novel with hundreds of speaking parts into thirty comic books. It felt like, in the first issue anyway, he was struggling a lot with what to keep in and what to toss out. Case in point--one of the best things about King's novels is his narrative voice (in this instance, your standard omniscient narrator who happens to have lots of gallows humour and pop reference at his disposal), but in a comic you obviously don't want to read page after page of captions describing what the artist is supposed to be drawing. Well, I guess you do if you're a shitty writer, but that's a whole other post. Back to the point, though, by this second issue--where things really start to go pear-shaped for America after the accidental release of a manmade, lethal superflu--Aguirre-Sacasa begins to deftly expand the cast of characters and the scope of the story much like the way the "Captain Trips" virus spreads across the land. Perkins has a gift for character acting and distinctive faces, which is most likely what got him this gig, but he also brings the scares with the atmospheric first appearance of Randall Flagg, AKA The Dark Man, AKA The Walkin' Dude, in a cool nightmare sequence. Weird numbering scheme aside (I have to try to explain the whole "No, it's a series of six miniseries that are all the same story--oh, forget it, it's a thirty-issue miniseries that restarts with number one every six issues!" to customers an awful lot), this is turning out to be a very cool series, and not just for King devotees. I suspect Vertigo fans will like what they find here, as well as lovers of post-apocalyptic adventure fiction. Also, unlike Marvel's baffling DARK TOWER prequel/adaptation/continuation/whatever the hell fiasco, new readers need have no previous knowledge of King's work. This one goes on the short list of Marvel's best current titles for me.

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