Now as you’ll no doubt have seen in my recent reviews…..the small press shelf is not to be passed-by……and “The Standard”….is yet another reason for that.
The special powers of writing belong to John Lees with his art sidekick Jonathan Rector and they combine to bring us the story of Gilbert Graham aka The Standard. A mild-mannered scientist given superpowers when a meteorite hits his lab…..don’t you hate it when that happens? Now that premise is pretty typical of a superhero origin…..but thankfully that’s where this stops being your typical comic book.
The Standard #1:
Gilbert’s days as The Standard seem to be long behind him as his side-kick, Fabu-Lad (aka Alex Thomas), has taken on the role following Gilbert’s retirement from the hero game. Set in Sky City, we see that Alex has veered away from the hero business and into the world of celebrity…..fame, fortune and reality TV has grabbed his attention these days….but at heart he’s still a hero. When a young girl goes missing he promises to find her…..and from here we’re on the betting game as to whether Alex will become a hero “The Standard” should be or give in to the celebrity life-syle. The issue plays out with a mysterious figure and a violent ending that I’m trying not to give away as best I can.
The Standard #2:
Issue #2 builds on the fallout from #1 and we get to know a lot more about Gilbert’s life these days as a school teacher……answering questions about his hero days and wowing the class. Intermingled with this we have some back-story on Fabu-Lad and we get to sit-in on some pretty poignant moments as Gilbert finds out about his abusive life so-far……false papers and an alias later, Gilbert has taken “Alex” under his wing and his training begins. We have mentions of secret serums, corporate goings-on and Alex’s agent chasing after Gilbert for what seems like ulterior motives but it all boils down to the missing girl and the quest to find her. Another hint at the mysterious figure at the end of the issue has me hooked BIG time.
It’s rare that I read and re-read an issue, let alone 2, in the way I have with The Standard……there’s something about it that seems familiar….the writing is so strong and involving that I just can’t seem to put them down……but that’s a good thing……I can only imagine that I’ll be re-reading the whole thing as each issue comes out. The pacing and plot are perfect, with a switch between now and a flashback here n there at just the right point to keep you up to date with the info you need. Even the supporting characters in this are likeable….the Scottish agent guy is BRILLIANT…..and the Villain, “The Frying Scotsman” is a stroke of genius. It’s actually a welcome change to see a Scottish character in a comic….one that I can pick up on his accent….even though it’s in print.
This is all backed up by Rector’s art which is exceptionally detailed where it needs to be and then slips into minimalist panels and bold colours that you’d expect from a hero comic. Looking at that cover for issue #2, it reminds of Joe Quesada and the colouring throughout both issues just seems to seep into the pages and settle into a natural look.
For me, the 2-issues here are among some of the best I’ve read in quite some time – thanks to both the writing and the art. It’s got a nostalgic edge to it but not in a schmaltzy way and somehow managed to keep hold of its on-the-edge-of-your-seat thriller status….as well as being about a superhero. That’s no mean feat from an independent title – a first class book and I’m holding my breath for issue 3….4….5……AND 6…..because I’m getting them all. It’s no wonder it gained 2 nominations at this years Scottish Independent Comic Book Awards (SICBA)….if anything, it should’ve won them….in my opinion anyway.
Hoping to have more reviews of this as the issues hit the comic book shelves.
Thanks to Gary for the very kind review. Comics Anonymous is a great collective of comics journalist, commentators and reviewers. I got to meet a couple of them at a Glasgow League of Writers event a few weeks back, and they’re nice folk too. Check out the review at the site here, and while you’re there, check out the rest of the site, with insightful reviews and cool creator interviews, among other goodies. Thanks again!
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