After five issues packed with action, drama, emotion, twists and turns, we finally reach the finale of The Standard. John Lees’ approach to the superhero genre has been compelling, exciting, and – as I mentioned in my review of issue five – downright cinematic, and my own personal expectations for this final issue were pretty much off the chart. After such a strong, confident journey, could John Lees and Pals (now the official term for John Lees collaborating with anyone, for the record) stick the landing? Well, let’s see…
Just like in the very first issue, the finale sees us flitting back and forth between the past and the present, with Lees taking great pleasure in highlighting the differences between the inherently camp nature of the ‘Golden Age’ Standard (any comic that opens with the line “Help! Save us from the Cyber Monkeys!” is alright in my book) and the gritty brutality of the present day.
With so many intertwining plot threads being established over the preceding five issues, Lees had a tall task ahead of him to make sure that A) he managed to tie everything together in the end, and B) the payoff was actually worthy of the build-up. Well, I’m pleased to report that – as if there were any real doubt – he managed to achieve both of these goals, and then some.
The three-way conflict that we finished the previous issue on delivered in a major way, providing some brutal, destructive combat between our three super-charged combatants. I’m not going to delve too deeply into the details, as neither this issue nor the previous one is technically available yet (not until Glasgow Comic Con 2014 in a few hours, that is), and I wouldn’t want to spoil anything for anyone. But suffice to say that if you’re found yourself drawn into this series like I have over the first four chapters, then you’re going to absolutely love this finish.
Somehow, Lees manages to wrap up the main storyline with pages to spare, and delights in giving us some terrific emotional payoffs and – like all great writers – leaving things open for a potential sequel somewhere down the line. Well, you just never know, do you?
My only minor criticism would be with some of Mike Gagnon’s colouring, which seemed just a little harsh for my tastes here. I fully appreciate the intent of making the flashback sequences being a little more ‘day-glo’ as a homage to the ‘Golden Age’ style of the past, but having the backdrops of the pages picked out in neon greens, yellows and oranges just seemed a little too gimmicky to me, and felt like it distracted somewhat from the contents of the panels.
That said, The Standard is still a gorgeous looking book, and Gagnon’s colouring does a great job inside the panels, bringing life and energy to Rector and Robson’s confident, detailed artwork. Once again, the artistic double-act does a fantastic job with the action set-pieces, giving every blow the necessary weight behind it and making every collision look like it actually hurts. However, they also do a fantastic job here of conveying the emotion on the character’s faces, particularly in the closing moments of the book – moments I will not be discussing, for obvious reasons.
Overall, this serves as a fitting conclusion for a sharply written, smoothly illustrated comic book tale. This is a six-part story arc that introduces us to some compelling protagonists, makes us care about them, twists them back and forth, and then brings the whole thing home in a brilliantly satisfying way. Cinematic storytelling with emotional heft and just the right amount of superhero cheese. Highly, highly recommended.
The Standard never lets anyone down. Never.
Yeah, you can say that again.
The Standard #6 will make its debut at Glasgow Comic Con 2014 on the 5th and 6th of July
You can also keep up to date on the latest news regarding this title via TheStandardComic.com.
The writer of this piece was: Craig Neilson (aka Ceej)
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