The Stand: No Man's Land
Writer: Stephen King [adapted by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa]
Artist: Mike Perkins
Published: Marvel, 2011
I seem to be reading a lot of adaptations lately.
I read The Stand way back in high school and I loved it. I can easily say it is one of my favourite books. The way King wove such an epic tale of good vs. evil, but at the same time, maintaining a level of intimacy with the reader that is rare. The characters are so realistic I sometimes find myself comparing them to people I know.
The adapter, Mr. Aguirre-Sacasa, is actually a screenwriter who has worked for HBO, which is promising. They have some good television. Artist Mike Perkins has previously won an and colourist Laura Martin worked on the first run of the ongoing Astonishing X-Men series, which I enjoyed immensely.
The basic storyline of The Stand is as follows: deadly virus escapes from military base in Nevada, kills 99% of people in the world, two mysterious figures [one representing good and the other, evil] gather followers around themselves to prepare for a climactic confrontation.
It spans thirty issues which have been collected in six trade paperbacks. I am reviewing the fifth out of those six, around the “gathers followers” part. I'll try not to give anything crucial away, as it is a tremendous read [at least the original, anyway] and highly recommended.
So, our merry band of survivors [the good guys] have gathered in Boulder, Colorado. They have begun rebuilding society, getting the power back on, cleaning up the bodies left by the plague, etc. Their leader, the venerable Abagail Freemantle, however, has left them for some soul-searching in the wilderness. She is opposed to their efforts at getting things back to normal because “God didn't bring you together to make a committee or a community...” She spends a couple weeks in the wild [a wee bit short of J.C.'s forty days and nights], only to return in her people's hour of need! !
The people of the Boulder Free Zone [as they have dubbed it] are mostly kind-hearted folk that just want to return to their simple lives. But there are agents of Randal Flagg AKA “the Dark Man” [bad guy boss, obv.] among them who seek to sabotage their efforts. Look out, Stu, Frannie, Larry and everybody else [it's a large cast]!
Obviously, they had to do some serious editing, as it is based on the unabridged version, which is well over 1000 pages. They did leave in one of my favourite parts: Stu's story about the time he met Jim Morrison, years after he supposedly “died”. Anyway, in the original, they had the luxury of fleshing out each character's inner monologue, whereas in the comic, it seems a lot more abrupt, jumping between POVs. “Stu thought this but Glen thought this.”
I think The Stand is one of those pieces of work that doesn't lend itself well to adaptations, comic book or otherwise. For example, the Dark Man: he is described as “a dark man with no face.” How does an artist draw that? He is as much a concept as a person. He is the embodiment of evil on Earth, appearing differently to different people [whatever they fear]. The effect would be similar on the reader, as the picture that their mind paints of the Dark Man would be different for each individual. Things like that give the book an atmosphere that is not easily recreated.
But, all things considered, they do an admirable job and I appreciate the effort. The artwork is quite good and has a suitable eeriness. Also, it was interesting to see the characters as someone else might imagine them. The chubby, troubled Harold looks like I imagined he would. As weird as it sounds, it was like seeing a friend I met online in person for the first time.
I will say that it seems better than the TV mini-series that was made back in the mid-90s [with Molly Ringwald, of all people, as Frannie][also, the opening sequence scared the shit outta me when I was a kid, because the virology lab here in Winnipeg had just been built... I used to hold my breath whenever we drove past]. I would have to check out the other issues to confirm this hypothesis.
Whew, this was refreshingly brief!