I cut my reading teeth on comic books over a half-century ago. My favorites were Dick Tracy and a series titled Classics Illustrated. The latter consisted of sequential art adaptations of classic works; the first one I remember reading was Off on a Comet by Jules Verne, which I followed with The Invisible Man by H.G. Wells, and then Ben-Hur by Lew Wallace (sue me; the movie was popular then). Fast-forward to the present: I have been reading Marvel’s adaptation of The Stand by Stephen King and every page, every panel of it, has put me in the mind of summers of 1961 and beyond, when I would sit and read those great comic books, which in turn prompted me to pick up the individual source material --- just like the last panel of each comic adaptation urged the reader to --- and read each of those, too. In the case of Marvel’s adaptation of The Stand, most readers, I would guess, have at least a passing familiarity with King’s original work. As senior editor Ralph Macchio notes in his introduction to The Stand, Vol. 6: The Night Has Come, if King had written nothing other than The Stand, he would nonetheless still be heralded as one of the more popular novelists of the late 20th and early 21st century. Just so; modesty, however, precludes Macchio from noting that Marvel’s adaptation stands as a classic work itself, one that will send anyone unfamiliar with King’s book scurrying after it to remedy that oversight, while those such as myself who have read The Stand one or more times will be prompted to reread the original yet again.
The Night Has Come collects the final six issues of Marvel’s adaptation of The Stand and the result is, as with its predecessors, a darkly beautiful rendition that is faithful to the original yet is capable and worthy of standing on its own. I have no idea what the creative principals --- Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa, who scripted the story, and Mike Perkins on art and colors, respectively --- went through to create such a seamless presentation, but I am sure that they all but shed blood, even though you would never know it from the way that the story flows so effortlessly from page to page.
For those unfamiliar with the story, think good vs. evil at its most basic, with evil in the form of Randall Flagg, the Dark Man, presiding from Las Vegas over a postapocalyptic world where almost all of the population has been lost to plague, while a handful of survivors in the Boulder Free Zone represent the good. Both sides are preparing for a final battle, one that those in the Free Zone are almost certain to lose. Yet, cracks are forming around Flagg, who finds himself unable to defend against one who is at least on the surface the weakest of those who would oppose him. It is a wonder to watch, through the medium of sequential art, as Flagg plants and nurtures the slow seeds of his own destruction, which bear fruit at the moment of what should be his ultimate triumph. The victory achieved by the Boulder Free Zone is not without heartbreak, pathos, tragedy, and sacrifice, and while The Stand ends on a note of hope, there is a discordant element of fear as well. The battle, it seems, is never truly over.
If you want to know what a brilliant achievement The Night Has Come truly is, consider this: One could read this final installment of The Stand on its own, without being familiar with the original work or what has gone before, and still enjoy and be moved by practically every panel. Macchio’s introduction, which chronicles how the project came about, as well as a short but informative summary of what has gone before, will get new readers and those with short recall quickly up to date. And if one still needs to have their appetite whetted, some reproductions of original art in progress, the covers of the original issues, and an advertisement for the whole shootin’ match under one hardcover on the back inside flap will get your blood flowing. Yeah, like it wouldn’t be anyway.
Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on June 10, 2013
The Stand, Vol. 6: The Night Has Come