Filed under: Comic Reviews, Indie Comics | Tags: Comix Tribe, Gilbert Graham, John Lees, Jonathan Rector, Kel Nuttall, MCM Scotland, Mike Ganon, The Standard, Will Robson
With a comic industry crammed full of superheroes it’s a fairly big gamble to try and grab some of that spotlight and even moreso within the small press market, that being said a well-written comic with good artwork has great potential in challenging that notion.
The Standard from John Lees & Jonathan Rector has proved to be just such a comic and the first four issues of this 6-issue run (reviewed here 1&2, 3, 4) have built up a world that has become intriguing with a cast of characters that have proven to be worthy additions to comic book “goodies” & “baddies” while maintaining a strong sense of grounding in reality. Real problems weaved in among the action and mystery have been the gambling chip that’s paid off in making this title the success it is. So we’re now at the final issues and i’m hyped but kinda gutted that it’s got to end…..but yet again……the quality of the characters is the main element that draws me back and that’s even more evident because of how that issue #4 left us on a cliffhanger.
A typical mix of flashbacks and current events kick-off in issue #5 as The Standard aka Gilbert Graham struggles to gain consciousness and face his attacker head-on. Only to have his ass handed to him and the recovery process to begin…..and it ‘s with issue #5 that the focus takes a slight shift onto his main enemy Zachary Zarthos and the legacy his evil ways have become – with a significant impact being felt by his daughter Zena Zarthos. It’s here that the intricate plot-lines all begin to tie together as Zena’s involvement with Alex Thomas aka Fabu-Lad aka The “new” Standard is laid out for us…..a hero with doubts looking for a way out of the lime-light looks towards Zena’s scientific ways to offer a more extreme solution in the form of cloning. BOOM……my head just exploded with all those ideas thrown into the mix…..and yet…..it all makes some kind of sense.
Messing with clones clears-up the origin of The Corpse and slams a big piece of the jigsaw into place and only now we see JUST how smart this title is…..the drip-feeding of details and cliffhanger moments have all been worth it as we get that “HOLY S£$%!” moment hitting us as we realize where we’ve been up to now. All these details play out for us and leave us in issue #5 with The Standard back on his feet, semi-recovered and leaving hospital in his tattered costume for a final showdown. Zena, The Corpse, The Standard all face-off in the final issue as the climax of the title plays out……a typical mix of flashbacks slap us in the face with more details we really should have guessed if we’d been playing close enough attention but I blame John for that…..he distracted me with how good main plot was and didn’t let me soak in the details in the background.
So here we are….the final face-off, good vs evil as it’s played out a million times before and while good wins the day…….it’s not without some sense of loss and an “end of an era” vibe that seems inevitable but somehow comforting. Graham Gilbert lays his doubts, his ghosts and his demons to rest as he finally hangs up his cape. WOW…..what a ride and we’re left with a glimmer of hope for more as Gilbert final line to one of his students suggests this may not be the end for more superhero comics from John Lees.
Lets not forget though that a REALLY good comic needs a good story but it needs the art to back that up and with Jonathan Rector & Will Robson on art, Mike Ganon on colours and Kel Nuttall on lettering……it’s got the full package. The artwork has been dark and menacing when it’s needed to be but bold and hopeful in equal measure as the tussle between good & evil and the real-life moments have given a significantly broad range of challenges across each issue and all six in equal measure. So while The Standard has maintained his ability to never let anyone down…..the creative team have thrived on that same motivation to gift us with The Standard.
The final issues of the title mark a significant part of John’s passion for writing and that’s come across in the title as a whole (as it does in his other work) but it’s not until you finish the story that you realize the mix of elements that are there, some in your face and others hidden subtly in the panels. Strong characters, AMAZING plot and a element of the real-world make The Standard one of the indie/small-press must-reads (and we’re getting more and more of those all the time) so I’m hoping to get my hands on a collected edition once these are all released globally. Issues #5 & 6 are being combined for release this month (24th September – order code JUL141052) through Comix Tribe and available in all GOOD comic book shops across the world.
John will also be at this weekends MCM Scotland in Glasgow so go see him and buy this and his other titles.
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