Monday, March 8, 2010

Welcome to the End of the World

When I first heard that Marvel was adapting Stephen King's epic The Stand into graphic novel format, I got pretty excited. The Stand is one of my favorite books of all time, one that I re-read every few years, one with scenes and characters that are unforgettable to many. I wasn't disappointed in the first 2 collected gn volumes, Captain Trips and American Nightmares, and I'm looking forward to the continuation of this familiar story being told in a new way. So yes, I'm writing this as someone who knows the original material well--and I would love to hear an opinion on this adaptation from someone who hasn't read King's novel.

Volume 1, collecting issues 1-5, sets up the battle between good and evil to come, introducing us to the characters on each side, and of course we have to start with how we got to this specific apocalypse in the first place. Besides meeting the survivors of the superflu (aka Captain Trips), we get a bit of backstory involving Project Blue, a governemnt biolgogical weapons project that got out of control. Only 1 man escaped the compound before it was locked down, but 1 man was enough to spread the epidemic throughout the country, maybe the world.

The first immune person that the superflu encounters is Stu Redman, a good ole boy from east Texas. Also immune are Frannie Goldsmith in Ogunquit, Maine (who just found out she is carrying an unplanned child), Larry Underwood of New York, who just had his first bona fide pop hit and has been riding the wave of parties and drugs, and Nick Andros, a deaf-mute drifter who finds himself in a jail cell in Arkansas after being beat up by local thugs (the cell is for his own protection). We also meet Randall Flagg, the Walkin' Dude, the Man with No Face. Whenever anyone asks me to name the scariest character I've ever read about, Flagg is always the first one who comes to mind. Sometimes shown as a crow or a wolf, he has always existed and will always exist, the personfication of humanity's darkest side. Eventually joining up with him are the Trashcan Man, a disturbed young man who sets fires for fun, and Lloyd Henried, currently in prison for his part in a recent robbery and murder spree, hoping someone will let him out before everyone dies and leaves him to rot in his cell.

I could go on about the characters, how they're drawn very close to how I pictured them in my head, about how the mood of each panel is perfect, about how scenes that I thought couldn't get any scarier actually did, and how the horror of other scenes is enhanced by the art by Mike Perkins, color by Laura Martin, the adaptation of King's novel by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa. The emotion is there, too,the humanity that makes you really feel for these people, feel like you knew what their lives were before, and know on a visceral level that things have changed forever. There is so much in the novel, it must have been extremely difficult to choose what to leave out, what to put into words, what to let the artists show. I very much look forward to this series being completed, like Y: The Last Man by Brian K. Vaughan, these are ones that I'll want to own. And they'll take less time to re-read than the orginal 1000+ page book. If you're a fan of King or not, if you just like a good apocalypse, check out Marvel's The Stand. Happy nightmares.

Cross posted at Dwelling in Possibility.

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