Okay, this is a pretty slow moving series at this point; let’s just get that out of the way first. We’re more than halfway through this first series and, as anyone familiar with the original novel has surmised, we’ve made very little progress. People are still walking around, blithely wiping their nose, still feeling little more than a tickle in their throats. Very few people are dead, no real supernatural antagonists have reared their mysterious heads. Just some coughs and bad dreams.
That being said, “The Stand” is turning out to be a pretty singular experience, and working very well as a kind of intimate character study. Fans of Stephen King know that the first, say, several hundred or so pages are devoted to fleshing out the men and women who are going to be put through hell in the remaining two thirds of the novel. When I was a kid, probably reading above my age-appropriate level, I would always skip these parts and go straight to the scary stuff. As I matured, I discovered King’s talents as a student of authenticity. He has a genuine knack for creating believable people.
Aguirre-Sacasa has captured this quality extremely well in this series, and if it succeeds at nothing else, it reminds us what a fantastic character King created in Nick Andros, the deaf mute with a heart of gold. Frannie Goldsmith also has a great scene with her family in this issue, another very successful translation. (That only underscores how much time the comic is taking to tell the story, when you remember what critical character to Frannie’s story has yet to be introduced.)
The comic does put a little extra weight on the government cover-up aspect of the story, which seems like a bit of a waste of space, considering how things end up for everyone. I suppose it’s purpose is to add a little extra tension to Stu Redman’s scene ("He. . . could be next! To die!") But really, Mike Perkins drawing an assault rifle wrapped in plastic tells you everything you need to know about the perilous state of things.
Perkins, by the way, is really doing a great job on this book. Way more effectively than that hoary old TV mini-series, he’s brought to life every one of my favorite characters introduced so far. The aforementioned Nick Andros, the Fightin’ Goldsmiths, they’ve all got new avatars in my mind the next time I decide to read the novel. Perkins has nailed them all.
"The Stand: Captain Trips" is a pretty bold comic to be publishing. It’s making no excuses for its pacing and, for those with the patience to stick with it, it’s all the better read for it. There’s barely any action, some flashes of violence putting at risk no one of any import, just over sixty pages now of the most basic of stage setting. But like Stephen King’s best work, it’s features an illuminating and authentic study of characters, living lives in the shadow of a coming storm.