Heavyweight comic book publisher Marvel envisions Stephen King’s seminal apocalyptic epic The Stand as six five-issue miniseries, collected here alongside a companion volume of creator interviews, production notes, script pages and original and supporting artwork.
Upon the release of The Stand’s expanded edition in 1990, Kirkus suggested King’s tale of good versus evil writ large (for the first time complete and uncut) had sprung from an imagination fed on comic books, and this new graphic homecoming (based on that 1990 edition) is a feverish wonder. Aguirre-Sacasa (Archie Meets Glee, 2013, etc.) divvies King’s sprawling novel into poetically economic blocks of text woven seamlessly across narration that gallops from the accidental release of a militarily engineered bioweapon known as Captain Trips, through the resulting phantsamagoria of plague, national decimation, widespread clairvoyance, crosscultural roadtripping and shaky-legged civil rebirth. The sprawling events crystalize into everyman Stu Redman’s damned love triangle with pregnant Fran Goldsmith and disturbed Harold Lauder; the Bildungsroman of rock star Larry Underwood, feauring Nadine Cross, the devil’s betrothed; deaf, mute and one-eyed wunderkind Nick Andros’ friendship with simpleminded secret weapon Tom Cullen; the anarchic inferno of Trashcan Man; the righteousness and inescapable humanity of Mother Abigail; and the ageless menace of Randall Flagg, aka the Walkin Dude, aka the Dark Man. As with much of King’s work, the story aches with the pathos of the damned, desperation and despair (and glimmers of hope) pulsing from a web of tortured relationships, so the swift pace of this visual translation is all the more impressive, thanks in no small part to how Perkins (House of M: Avengers, 2008, etc.) twists the creamy fullness of his figures and faces so that even conversations crackle with animation and silent expressions tremble with emotion. Of course, the story also provides ample opportunity to illustrate in engrossing detail decimating gunflights, prolonged decomposition, naked crucifixion, devastating explosions, demonic wolf and weasel attacks and Flagg’s overworldly abilities, including levatation and looking appropriately badass in a jean jacket. The overall effect is akin to operatic yet finite series such as Preacher, but without the zaniness and iconoclasm.
An adaptation that thrives in its new medium.