Saturday, September 21, 2013

A Review of "The Stand, Vol. 4: Hardcases"

The second half of Marvel's adaptation of The Stand kicks off with "Hardcases," which is ostensibly focused more on the villainous side of things than has been the case so far.  Is that actually the case?  Yeah; sort of.  Not entirely, but sort of.

Let's get to it!


premiere hardback, art by Tomm Coker and Laura Martin

premiere hardcover, art by Tomm Coker and Laura Martin

The shard-eyed among you will have noticed that there is a new name in the mix: Tomm Coker stepped in as the primary cover artist on the series starting with Hardcases #1, replacing Lee Bermejo.  Bermejo did some unquestionably great work on the first three arcs, but don't be dismayed; Coker proved to be a more than adequate replacement, and he did quite a few of my favorite covers of the entire series.  We'll see a few of those in this very post, in fact.


The Stand: Hardcases #1

published June 3, 2010 (cover date August 2010)


art by Tomm Coker and Laura Martin

Well, that's The Kid, alright.  We'll talk more about him in a bit.  It's also worth pointing out that I like Tomm Coker's version of Trashcan Man about five times as much as I like Mike Perkins' version.

The contents of the issue:
  • Page 1: "Previously in The Stand."
  • Pages 2-23: entirely focused on Trashcan Man, this issue follows him as he walks across the country, dreams about being a weasel in Mother Abagail's corn, meets The Kid, gets violated by The Kid, gets away from The Kid (with a little help from his wolfy friends), and finally makes to Vegas.
  • Pages 24-25: "The Journey of Trashcan Man," a map of Trashy's trek across America.  Included in the collected editions, and also available in The Stand Companion.
  • Pages 26-31: art evolution pages, showing the process of Perkins' art progressing from pencil sketches to inked pieces to having Martin's colors added.  Included only in The Stand Companion.
  • Page 32: cover sketches by Tomm Coker.  Included only in The Stand Companion.

 The Stand: Hardcases #2

published July 8, 2010 (cover date September 2010)


art by Tomm Coker and Laura Martin

Not one of my favorite covers, to be honest.  It's good art, but the concept itself is a little weak, and I'm not persuaded by Coker's take on Lloyd.  He looks like Rowdy Roddy Piper from They Live, and also looks like he has titties.  But it's not bad, and there is certainly some ominousness, what with the mallet and the railroad spike and the cross in the background.  I'm guessing there will be nothing good done with those things once they combine.

The contents:
  • Page 1: "Previously in The Stand."
  • Pages 2-5: as if an entire issue devoted to Trashcan Man wasn't enough, the first four pages of this one are his, too!  He wakes up in Vegas and finds himself among friends.
  • Pages 6-7: Lucy Swann talks with Judge Farris about the fact that Larry is in love with Nadine.
  • Pages 8-15: Trashcan Man gets to take part in his first crucifixion (from the ground, luckily for him).
  • Pages 16-18: Lucy confronts Larry about his feelings for Nadine.
  • Pages 19-21: we find out a bit about Nadine's backstory, and discover that she is evidently engaged to Flagg.  Great...I'm sure THAT will have a happy ending.
  • Pages 22-23: Trashcan Man meets Flagg, finally.
  • Pages 24-25: another map, this time showing the journey Larry took, starting in California and ending in Boulder.  Again, this IS included in the collected editions, unlike a lot of the supplementary material.
  • Pages 26-30: selected pages of Mike Perkins pencil art.  You can get this is The Stand Companion, but not in the collected editions.
  • Page 31: a Tomm Coker sketch for the issue's cover.  Extremely rough, but it's cool to see what something like that looks like in an early stage.  You'll have to get The Stand Companion to see it, though.
  • Page 32: another Tomm Coker cover sketch, this one a nearly-finished alternate concept involving a poor bastard on a cross.  This one actually is included in the collected editions.

The Stand: Hardcases #3

published August 4, 2010 (cover date October 2010)


art by Tomm Coker and Laura Martin

One of my favorite covers for the series.  That's due partially to the fact that I think Nadine here looks really hot, but apart from my perviness, it's just a strong concept.  The execution is great, too; the colors by Martin are especially strong.

The contents:
  • Page 1: "Previously in The Stand."  None of these pages are included in the collected editions, for obvious reasons.
  • Pages 2-4: Glen and Stu have a conversation in which Glen impresses upon Stu the need for them to get organized in Boulder.
  • Pages 5-14: almost as if she heard them talking, Mother Abagail begins thinking about how she will be used as a figurehead by whatever government Boulder selects.  Soon thereafter, a new group of survivors arrives, including Nadine, who sets off Mother Abagail's alarm bells.
  • Pages 15-17: Nick works on a plan for the council, which he decides will NOT include Harold Lauder.
  • Pages 18-21: newly arrived in town, Larry comes to Frannie's house hoping to find Harold.
  • Pages 22-23: Harold sits under the stars, writing his dark thoughts in his journal.
  • Pages 24-25: "Journey of Stu Redman."  You can find this in the collected editions, if you've a mind to.
  • Pages 26-32: a selection of pages from Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa's script for this issue.  Nowhere to be found in the collected editions, but you can get them in The Stand Companion.

The Stand: Hardcases #4

published October 20, 2010 (cover date December 2010)


art by Tomm Coker and Laura Martin

Another awesome cover, although this one is extremely disturbing.  The concept comes from something Joe/Leo says to Larry about Harold after meeting him: "I think there might be worms inside him, making him smile...  Big, white worms eating up his brains like maggots..."

Also worth pointing out: the publication date.  More than two months went by between  issues 3 and 4; this was one of the very few delays the series ever experienced during its run.  But I'm glad Marvel simply delayed the issue, rather than hiring a fill-in artist to take over Mike Perkins' duties for the issue.  That would have sucked.

The contents of the issue:
  • Page 1: "Previously in The Stand."
  • Pages 2-6: Larry finally gets to meet Harold, with Leo in tow.
  • Pages 7-11: Frannie and Stu talk about Harold, and Frannie intuits that something has made Harold's attitude change.  She considers when it happened, roughly, goes to consult her diary...and finds a big, chocolate-lookin' thumbprint.
  • Pages 12-13: Stu talks Larry into joining the ad hoc committee.
  • Pages 14-19: the ad hoc committee discusses matters, including the idea of sending spies West to Vegas.
  • Page 20: Frannie almost says something to Stu about Harold's thumbprint, but doesn't.
  • Pages 21-23: after dreaming of Flagg, Mother Abagail decides she has sinned, and must go into the wilderness to repent.
  • Pages 24-31: more pages from Aguirre-Sacasa's scripts.  I love having access to this stuff; it makes it a lot easier to figure out the dynamics in terms of how the decisions were made on specific panels.  In the case of these pages, though, you can find them in the original issues and in the omnibus collection's The Stand Companion, but not in the regular collected editions.
  • Page 32: a couple of Coker sketches for the cover.  Included only in The Stand Companion.

The Stand: Hardcases #5

published November 17, 2010 (cover date January 2011)


art by Tomm Coker and Laura Martin

Who does this depiction of Flagg remind me of?  I haven't quite figured it out.  My gut impulse was to say Nick Cave, but it's not Nick Cave.  My second impulse was Sam Neill, and it might be Sam Neill I'm thinking of...but I'm not convinced of it.  I love it when my brain can't figure itself out!

The contents of the issue:
  • Page 1: "Previously in The Stand."
  • Pages 2-3: Stu, Glen, Nick, Ralph, and Harold argue about whether to send a search party out to find Mother Abagail.
  • Pages 4-7: Frannie sneaks into Harold's house, trying to find evidence of some sort.  She gets spooked by Nadine, knocking on the front door.
  • Pages 8-11: Harold considers killing Stu while they are searching for Mother Abagail, but a compliment from Stu throws him off his plan.
  • Pages 12-13: Harold sees a footprint back home, and knows someone has been spying on him.
  • Page 14: Stu and Frannie talk about Harold, but Frannie still doesn't tell Stu about her suspicions.
  • Pages 15-17: Glen finds Kojak, who evidently made his way across the country, following Glen.
  • Pages 18-23: the first Free Zone Town Meeting takes place.
  • Pages 24-28: Mike Perkins discusses a trip he took to Boulder for reference, complete with photos he took.  This, you can find in the collected editions.  And, of course, in The Stand Companion.
  • Pages 29-31: script-to-final comparison for pages 1, 7, and 16.  Only found in The Stand Companion.
  • Page 32: a trip of sketches Coker did for the cover.  Of the three, I think I like the one he used the least; and I like that one just fine.  Sadly, you rubes will have to shell out for The Stand Companion if you want to see them, as Marvel decided the collected editions were not worthy.
*****
One thing I noticed when beginning to flip through Hardcases is that there is an introduction by Marvel Senior Editor Ralph Macchio.  If I'm not mistaken, there is one of these in each volume.  They're nothing special, but they're kinda cool.  I also noticed that there is, in fact, a "Previously in The Stand" page, so it may be that I've been lying all along when I said those weren't included in the collected editions.  Sorry 'bout that.  Your refund check is in the mail.  I'd go wait on it, if I were you; you don't don't want some firebug wandering by and burning it up, like happened to old lady Semple's pension check t'other day.  Would you?

Speaking of old lady Semple, we begin Hardcases with a full chapter devoted to nothing but Trashcan Man's efforts to get to Las Vegas.  Along the way, he encounters a psychopath who calls himself The Kid.  The Kid is a greaser with a killer set of wheels, a fixation on Coors, and a tendency to say things like "You believe that happy-crappy?"  He is a fairly annoying character, to tell you the truth, even in the novel.  His entire chapter was cut out of the 1978 version, and made its reappearance in the 1990 edition; it was one of that edition's selling points, in fact.

Problem is, The Kid comes off as a bit too cartoonish a character for me to put much stock in.  He doesn't bother me too much; it's not like I get annoyed while reading his chapter and want to skip it.  He's just not one of my favorites.  Others may like him considerably more.

We'll get back to him in a sec, but first, this:


Hardcases #1, page 2, panels 2-4

As we've discussed before, I find Trashcan Man to be about as much fun as a kidney stone, even in the novel.  But in the novel, he at least makes sense to me.  In the novel, I get that he has somehow mentally connected Las Vegas to the fabled City of Gold Cibola.  I don't entirely know how or why Trashcan Man would make that connection, but he's made it, and that's sufficient.  The comic does a decent job of carrying that over (especially compared to the miniseries, which gives the viewer no context at all, and is a complete bungle in this regard).

The comic falls down on the job a bit, though, by way of not explaining what all this "bump-ty, bump-ty bump" mess is all about.  In the novel, we are told that at some point, Trashy heard a song, and got the bass line stuck in his head, and has since sort of made up his own lyrics, singing near-wordlessly about Cibola.  It's still annoying, but it at least makes sense, and I'll take that over annoying that makes no sense every time.

Here's a disturbing image of Trashy dreaming about visiting Mother Abagail:


Hardcases #1, page 7, panels 2-4

That's freaky-deaky, boy.

Soon thereafter, we meet The Kid, in a rare Stand double-splash:


Hardcases #1, pages 8-9

I live in Alabama, and have done my entire life.  I've not spend a huge amount of time in the neighboring Deep South states (Georgia, Mississippi, Louisiana, Tennessee, and Arkansas), but I've spent some time in each, and have met plenty of people from each.

I've never heard anyone say anything like "Hey, you all tall and oogly."  Maybe such people exist somewhere; I'm not claiming to be an expert on fifties-esque hick slang.  My point is simply that I've never encountered it.  As such, my relationship with The Kid -- the comics version of him, at least -- begins on the wrong foot, with me being unable to believe that he is any way a real person.  Does that cripple him for the remainder of his short life in the series?  Probably.

Here's a creepy scene that is, mercifully, less creepy than in the novel:


Hardcases #1, page 14, panels 3-7

Now, in case my various reveries about Julie Lawry and Nadine Cross didn't tip you off, I'm a heterosexual.  But I've got no problem with seeing a bit of homosexuality in my comic books; don't cross my eyes none.  So believe me when I say that I'm not prejudiced, and bear that in mind when I wonder how anyone could possibly enjoy spending time inside Trashcan Man's anus.  How do you suppose that dude smells even in the best of circumstances?  Much less after the collapse of society and in the midst of a walking tour on the continent.  That asshole probably smells like werewolf burps.  That's what bothers me the most about the scene, if I'm being honest.  Gross.

The Kid gets his there, but pretty soon, he gets his in a different context altogether, as a pack of Flagg's wolves show up to corner the punk in a car while Trashcan Man makes his escape.  This leads to a rarity: a panel of Trashcan Man that I like!  Check it out:


Hardcases #1, page 20, panel 4

Moving on to Chapter Two, we find Trashcan Man making some friends in Vegas:


Hardcases #2, page 4, panels 2-4

Okay, seriously; what is Heck Drogan doing with his hands?  Making gang signs?  I don't know, but whatever it is, Flagg must not be a big fan, because in a few pages, Drogan finds himself about to get crucified for being a drug user.


Hardcases #2, page 12, panel 5

Mike Perkins has got a major issue with people doing weird shit with their hands/fingers.  I wish I had script pages from Aguirre-Sacasa, so I could see how much -- if any -- of this is coming from him.  But I don't, sadly.


Hardcases #2, page 16, panels 4-5

What is going on in that right-hand panel?  Is Larry squatting out a growler while talking to Lucy?!?  ERRRRHHHHHNNNNNN!!!!!!!
  
Mike Perkins redeems himself in a single panel pretty soon, though:
  
  
  
Hardcases #2, page 19, panel 2
I can't even tell you how much I like that panel.  Nadine looks dead and alive simultaneously; vibrant, but like a skeleton in some way.  She also looks like that semi-subliminal demon face that pops up in a few frames of The Exorcist, but that image scares me half to death, so if you want to see it for a comparison, you're on your own, pardner.

*sigh*

Alright, fine, I'll find it for you.  Lemme go look...




FuckfuckfuckFUCKfuck, JESUS CHRIST!  That is awful!

Don't say I never did anything for you.
  
Here are a few other panels of Nadine from the issue:
 
 
  
Yet another example (two of them, actually) of Perkins going the simple, clean route and coming up roses.  He does pretty well with Nadine throughout the series, to be honest.

 
This panel is an obvious callback to the one from Soul Survivors #4, in which Mother Abagail stands against a starry sky, with Flagg's Eye looking down in opposition upon her.  Here, Nadine does not even get the benefit of having Flagg's Eye be present.  One gets the sense that even with an Enemy like Flagg looming over her, Mother Abagail is somehow less lonely than Nadine.  Poor Nadine.

Moving on now, to Chapter Three, where people continue to do weird things with their fingers:


Hardcases #3, page 7, panel 1

Awful.

You know, I've done a few interviews for this blog -- including one with Owen King! -- but panels like the one above make me realize that in general terms, I am unsuited to being an interviewer.  Because if I ever had the opportunity to interview Mike Perkins, one of two things would happen.  One: I decide to be unprofessional, and I end up asking Perkins, "So, what's up with all the weird things your character in The Stand are doing with their fingers?"  Two: I decide not to ask that question, despite the likelihood that it would be THE question I would most want answered.  Neither of these things seem appealing.

More terrible panels:


Am I supposed to think Ralph is a dirty, smelly hobo (possibly one whose eyes have been put out at some point)?  Because that's what he looks like here.

Nadine looks fine, but Joe/Leo looks absolutely nothing like what he has looked like elsewhere in the series.  He looks a little like the child of Elvis and Elizabeth Taylor.

Is Mother Abagail having a heart attack?  Doing an E.T. impersonation?  Squatting out a growler?  Is Ralph having sex with Tom on her lawn?

Moving along to chapter four, Larry finally tracks down Harold, whom he has followed across the nation.  Let's peek in on a couple of those panels and see if I can find something to complain about:


Hardcases #4, page 5, panels 4-5


The idea of Harold grinning all the time comes straight out of the novel, but that's the sort of thing that can work in a novel, when we can imagine it in such a way as to make it seem believable to us each in our turn.  But actually depicting it is another thing altogether, and I don't believe for one second that someone who is grinning the way Harold is grinning here would be considered even vaguely sane by a sane person.  This Harold is someone everyone would be suspicious of to a major degree.  That's not what's going on in the novel; that Harold makes people a little uneasy, but he doesn't do a Joker impersonation and make people wonder when (not if) he will snap.

I find I have very little to say about what's going on in these issues, which is a shame.  I am complaining about the art a lot, but I do enjoy Hardcases overall.

Let's get into Chapter Five and see if I can be a bit more positive about it.

One of the major events of this chapter is the return of Kojak, who appears in Boulder, seemingly having followed Glen over two thousand miles.  Here's a great page showing the reason why Kojak is all scarred and torn:


Hardcases #5, page 17


Alright, look; I'm all man.  I fart a lot, and I love bacon, and I think John Wayne is awesome, and I refuse to ask people for directions when I get lost driving.  MAN.

But that image of Kojak in the bottom right-hand corner of the page makes me want to weep a little bit.

Seriously, I'm going to have to look away.

Which, frankly, seems like a good excuse to bring this review to an end.  I feel as if I didn't quite bring my A-game to this one, especially compared to some of the others.  But hey, even Johnny Manziel throws an interception on occasion.

Be back soon with a (hopefully more insightful) look at Volume 5, No Man's Land.

7 comments:

  1. Great Crikes re: that guy from The Exorcist!

    Some interesting art to be sure up there. (lol at the squatting out a growler - I doubt I'll be able to see that panel in any different light, now, if I ever pick this up.)

    You're definitely onto something with these odd splayed-fingers business.

    As for the cover to issue 5, I definitely do see a little of Sam Neill from Omen III. Maybe a little Michael Ian Black, as well. Or Sheldon from the Big Bang Theory. One of these 3 seems appropriate for Flagg, at least...!

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    1. I'm gonna say that of those three, Neill would probably be the superior choice.

      By the way, Jeff Goldblum was apparently the first choice to play Flagg in the miniseries. I think I forgot to mention that in my review of it. But according to the commentary track, it's true. I love Goldblum, but I'm not sure I can see him playing Flagg. And I shudder to think of him playing Flagg for Mick Garris.

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    2. I can't see Goldblum as Flagg, either. I'll keep my thinking cap on for the perfect casting - got nothing at present. (Except for Tom Cruise, but I think there's a better match out there.)

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    3. He looks like Jeremy Irons!

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  2. So far, I have no complaints in terms of adaptation, however I terms of imagery, well, the main question is how good are some of the artists at depicting normal human faces.

    With the exception of Ralph Brentner, most of the basic models for the characters are fine, it's what the artists do with their expressions that bugs me.

    I don't know where the all American goofball look comes from, but it's wanted more in the latest Mad issue rather than in a King adaptation.

    I'm sort of wondering now why no one thought to bring Bernie Wrightson in on this whole enterprise, he did an okay job on the 90s edition of the Stand, so wouldn't it be great to see more of it in an entire comic and in full color?

    Now, to change topics a bit, I'm afraid.

    Doctor Sleep...

    ...I read a review of it last Monday, several in fact...oh boy.

    The reviews seemed positive yet muted. For me, I know while I may log in to catch others takes on it, I personally will not be reading a word.

    It's not a last minute decision for me, however reading the spoilers in those reviews is sort of the final clinching evidence that King really made a mistake this time.

    If have to explain more of my thinking...

    Well, I wrote what I can't bring myself to call an essay and have already mailed it to both Bryan and Dave Squyers at Talk Stephen King.

    If you want, and maybe just as a contrast view I can send it along whenever, although at this late date I'm racing the release deadline, and some of it may sound pretty out there, like left field territory (though it's by no means a smear tirade or anything like that. Indeed, I hoped all through it's composition that I kept on as scholarly a footing (yeah right) as possible).

    There's the offer, just two cents is all. did try to include as much of my own philosophy of fiction, both film and book related as possible without getting over technical (again, yeah right).

    ChrisC

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    Replies
    1. I agree with you about the facial expressions. Granted, they are not always as bad as many of the ones I've posted here; you're seeing a lot of the worst examples. But they stand out big-time, and the cumulative effect of them is to weigh the entire comic down.

      As for the "Doctor Sleep" stuff, the reviews I've read have been uniformly positive. I haven't read them fully, because I'm trying to avoid knowing any of the specifics of the plot; but in skimming the first and last paragraphs, most everyone has seemed very enthusiastic. I've seen nothing indicating that anyone thinks King has improved on "The Shining," but I've also seen nothing indicating that anyone thinks he's tarnished that novel's legacy.

      Feel free to send the essay along to me (honkmahfah@yahoo.com), and I'll give it a read. It won't be until after I've finished "Doctor Sleep," though; I'll be disappearing into that one early A.M. on Tuesday.

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