Review – The Standard #1

Comix Tribe is really publishing a slew or interesting titles these days and The Standard easily lives up to what I am quickly coming to expect from their titles. John Lees, Jonathan Rector, Ray Dillon, Mo James and Kel Nuttall combine their talents on this slightly different take on the traditional superhero story.

Gilbert Graham was once a typical scientist – and doesn’t it seem like 90% of superheroes were scientists before getting their powers? – until his lab was hit with a meteorite. Instead of dying as I’m fairly certain I would in the same situation here in my office, Gilbert obtains superpowers!

This leads to the creation of The Standard, Sky City’s protector and first superhero. Gilbert has an idealistic vision for The Standard and with his trusty sidekick Fabu-Lad – aka Alex Thomas – crime is fought and justice delivered. Even with his superpowers, Gilbert still appears to age and he eventually retires, leaving Alex in control of the mask. It is this transition to a new man behind the mask that draws the focus of this first issue.

As alluded to in the previous paragraph, Fabu-Lad – now The Standard – has run out of challenges and decided to become a reality TV star. He removes his mask and reveals his identity to everyone. In the process of fame and fortune he still fights crime, only most of the time he is doing it on camera. There are some amusing moments and interactions between networks, agents and The Standard, but Alex feels empty. He isn’t living up to his idol and retired friend Gilbert Graham, the original Standard.

To make up for this Alex vows to find a kidnapped girl. The case has eluded police and The Standard decides to use some of his national press and coverage to advertise for the girl. But alas, when you reveal your secret identity to the public bad things are bound to follow and things get very complicated for Alex. The issue ends in a brutal and shocking way that was not hinted at throughout this first issue. I’m still a little stunned, but also completely riveted at what the fallout will be.

This comic takes an interesting look at the pressure of taking on the mantle of a great superhero after his retirement and the danger of fear and disappointment that can follow. It's as much a psychological look at Alex Thomas as he works out how to be The Standard as it is a superhero story. While it doesn’t start off as the most action packed title the end will definitely get your attention and the story is interesting enough that it held me as a reader pretty well throughout.

The artwork is also pretty great in The Standard. Rector's illustrations lend a pulpy feel to the comic, sort of like the old comics you would read where a meteorite did crash and give someone powers. The colors and finish used by Dillon and James are almost in juxtaposition to the pencils and combine to convey an almost ethereal tone. That might not seem to make a lot of sense but when you read the book you'll see how the illustration just really pops. It adds a sense of tragedy to the tale.

If this sounds interesting or if I’ve just made it so you need to find out the ending definitely check it out in stores. Happy reading!