Monday, January 13, 2014

Stephen King's The Stand Omnibus

  Thank goodness for Marvel's glorious Omnibus format.

 I am a HUGE fan of Stephen King's epic post-apocalyptic novel THE STAND. I've read it many times, both the original version and the uncut version. I even love the oft-maligned ABC mini-series directed by Mick Garris. I was thrilled when Marvel announced that they were adapting it as a limited-series. I bought the first ten issues, and loved them, before eventually losing interest and dropping the book. Nothing against the adaptation, but I'd already been there and done that, and I figured that there was no need to spend good money on a story that I already knew backwards and forward.

 Boy, was I wrong.

 I was lured in by the siren song of THE STAND OMNIBUS, a two-volume slipcased hardcover set that is as close to pure physical perfection as you're likely to get from a mainstream comic book publisher.

 THE STAND is masterfully adapted to comics by Writer Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa and Artist Mike Perkins, and to say that this was clearly a labor of love would be an understatement. Aguirre-Sacasa does more than just chop the massive novel up into floppy-friendly chunks and copy and paste King's dialogue...The way that he integrated the novel's flashbacks into a linear narrative, for instance, shows the care and thought that he put into each and every issue. You often hear that "So-snd-so is doing his best work on fill-in-the-blank.", but it's never been more true than it is here with Artist Mike Perkins. This is some of the best visual storytelling that I've ever seen in the pages of a comic, and considering that I've been reading comics for over 43 years, that's saying a lot. I'll never be able to read about any of these characters without picturing them as visualized by Perkins. My hat is really off to Aguirre-Sacasa and Perkins, and the whole Marvel team....I was just as thrilled and horrified and spellbound reading THE STAND OMNIBUS as I was reading the novel for the first time when I was a teen-ager.

 I'm not usually a fan of slipcases, but Marvel did a nice job with this one. It's sturdily constructed, and doesn't have the cheap, unfinished interior that most graphic-novel slipcases have. The slipcase contains two beautifully designed hardcovers that collect the entirety of the six Marvel mini-series. The first, larger volume features all 31 issues, collecting the adaptation as a whole, complete with all covers and variants. (Unfortunately, the covers are featured in the back of the book, reduced to four-to-a-page thumbnails, although I was happily surprised to see that the book closes out with a five-page gatefold that features all of Mike Perkins' interconnected variant covers for the first mini-series.)

 The second volume contains all of the ancillary material that ran as back-up features in the monthly issues, and also showcases all of the covers and variants, this time presented at full-size. There's an exhaustive amount of behind-the-scenes material here, including sketches, original art, script pages, interviews with all of the creators (Unfortunately, nothing from Stephen King himself...), maps that show important locations, timelines, the original Aguirre-Sacasa/Perkins tryout pages, and more than a few hints that Aguirre-sacasa and Perkins would like to tackle 'SALEM''S LOT next.

 Yes, please.

 THE STAND OMNIBUS is an amazing achievement, a beautiful piece of art in it's own right, and I can't recommend it highly enough, to both "Constant readers" and newcomers alike.