Wednesday, October 28, 2009


By Chris Wilson

Original Author: Stephen King
Adaptation: Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa
Pencils & Inks: Mike Perkins
Colors: Laura Martin
Lettering: Chris Eliopoulos
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Genre: Horror

Format: Comic
Issues: Captain Trips #1-#5; American Nightmares #1-#4
Color: Full color

THE STAND is a heavy-duty apocalyptic story of a horrific, military-engineered airborne virus that gets released by mistake and infects 99.6 percent of the population. Death comes within four days or so and there is no treatment, no cure, no inoculations.

The government, with an iron fist and loaded gun, takes over all media outlets – newspaper, radio and television – working hard to cover, conceal and contain before widespread panic ensues. Facilities run by the military and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) get infected, too, leaving no scientists to engineer a cure even if there was such a possibility.

The few immune survivors set out on their individual paths to find safety and company and to make sense of the chaotic new world. All the while a stranger, the faceless malevolent beast Randall Flagg, is making his way through the carnage in preparation for his rebirth.

I knew going in that it would be hard, if not impossible, to recommend the comic adaptation of Stephen King’s THE STAND for elementary or secondary students. Something about it coming from King and the fact that it carries a parental advisory on the front of every issue indicated that my efforts might just be a bit futile as far as a  review was concerned.

That’s okay. I accepted that fact.

I didn’t read THE STAND for students as much as I read it for myself. I wanted to read it; I have been collecting the issues since September 2008 and for many people King is the supreme chancellor of horror fiction.

So I offer to you this strangle little review that is more for my own benefit, for my own desire to read, from my own beliefs of comic literature as the catalyst that creates life long readers. I hope you find it less of a review and more of an homage to the great art form that is comics.

THE STAND is apropos as many worldwide governments are fighting and preparing for the pandemic viral H1N1 flu, better known as the Swine Flu. The reality of that flu adds to the authenticity of the story and underscores the stomach-punched feeling of dread that occured as I read the Aguirre-Sacasa/Perkins/Martin comic adaptation.

It’s downright scary to think that King’s story (or parts of it at least) could come alive in the 21st century. The first two story arcs are focused on the real-life biohazard with little emphasis on the transcendental character of Flagg. While the paranormal aspect has barely begun, it is clear Flagg brings nothing but death with him.

How will the characters respond? What path will they choose? Most have weaknesses, some more than others and Flagg is certainly prepared to exploit those character flaws. This story will undoubtedly end in a day of reckoning between good and evil. But themes such as individual versus society, as well as redemption, destiny, and religion will appear.

THE STAND has proven to be a great October comic, something that made me uncomfortable and excited at the same time. This really hit home in THE STAND: CAPTAIN TRIPS #4 when I came to the two-page spread after the story. In it the writer gives us a list of several of the world’s great viral infections that have killed millions. Incidentally, this included the Spanish Flu of 1918, which I learned was a strain of the Influenza A subtype H1N1 virus. How about that for scary? What a perfect detail to add to this comic. Kudos to whoever thought that up. I had to use hand sanitizer after reading the epilogue.

I loved the book. I am excited to finish it out with SOUL SURVIVORS. However, I do offer this cautionary advice: Reading THE STAND right now may cause you to become a hypervigilant, OCD, germaphobe. Reader beware of the impact literature can have on one’s psyche.

I love it when literature affects me, especially if it can scare the beejeebers out of me. THE STAND has definitely done that and more thanks to outstanding writing and art.

Not Recommended for the Classroom
For what should be obvious reasons (strong language, bloody violence, grotesque situations) I would not recommend this comic for the elementary/secondary classroom. Now, the college classroom is another story. I would recommend it as a stand-alone reading or as a dual text reading (novel and comic), given the right classroom.

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