Three New Reviews For The Standard!

February 5, 2013

As the release of The Standard #1 fast approaches, a few great reviews have been trickling in.  I had intended to share them on this blog as they were first published, but time got away from me, so we’ve built up a little backlog!  So, in today’s update, we’re going to share all three in a single sitting.

First up are the fine folks of ComicBuzz, a fantastic resource for comics reviews.  Reviewer Colin O’Mahoney had this to say about the first issue:

Previously only available as a small press title through conventions and limited stores, The Standard #1 is released this February through Diamond distributors. Which means, in short, that it’s now available in your local comic store.

Due to lower print runs and higher overheads, indie publishes have a tendency to lean towards slightly higher cover prices. In this instance, the $3.99 asking price is justified with 28 pages of story, and over the course of its 6 bi-monthly issues an investment in the series will be smaller than for most regular series over the course of a year.

The Standard is the story of former sidekick Alex Thomas, who has taken on the role of his once-mentor The Standard. Standard was the original Superhero, a legend of the Golden Age who dedicated his life to helping others, to raising the bar for heroism, and setting a new standard for man (see what he did there, with the name?). But fast forward to the now, and Alex has taken on the mantle of the Standard in reality TV shows and advertisments, his powers enhanced with drugs, his crime-fighting exploited for profit and talk show appearances.

Throughout the story, The Standard switches between the modern day and forty years ago. Both eras look great, but in particular the book nails the golden age feel of superheroes in narration, art, colouring, and action. In a book of this nature Watchmen comparisons are unavoidable, and this is swimming in similarities, and not just the themes and settings. It also crops up in plot points later in the issue, which I will avoid discussing for obvious spoiler reasons.

As I started reading the issue, I grew pretty sceptical pretty quickly. The set-up felt so tired and familiar. But I was more than glad I persevered. Despite the premise, the story felt somehow fresh, the golden age sequences completely charmed me, and the modern age, the meat of the story, convinced me. I bought into the characters, and the drama felt real. All this and a sense of humour that always hit home. Scottish arch-supervillian The Frying Scotsman was a particular highlight, and my favourite new villian for 2013, unfortunately brief though his appearance was.

Jonathan Rector’s art is polished and enjoyable, and colourists Ray Dillon & Mo James really help sell the difference in eras. A clean, bold palette for the golden age, and slightly darker colours for the modern age, with more shade, more detail for a more complicated world.

By the time I had finished the issue my reservations had all but melted away, as though hit by a blast from the Frying Scotsman. The premise might not be new, but how many books on your pull list have what can be regarded as a new or unique premise? Not many. The Golden Age is captured so well as to re-kindle an innocent sense of excitement and wonder at men who can fly, and the rest of the book was smart enough, interesting enough, and just plain fun enough to make me rank this superhero book over a lot of similar output from the Big Two in recent years.

Thanks for the kind words, Colin, and I’m glad you stuck through that beginning and ended up enjoying the comic overall.  I’ve had quite a few folks say they weren’t sure of the opening pages, but were won over as they read on further.  Perhaps not the best first impression to be making with a debut comic!  You can check out Colin’s review on ComicBuzz here.

The next review comes from Richard Vasseur of Jazma Online, who read the first 3 issues of The Standard and gave the story so far a fantastic 5/5 score!  Here is the full review:

Gilbert Graham has a meteor crash into his lab dousing him in chemicals and meteoric particles and so his life is changed forever.

The Standard becomes a true hero always doing the right thing. He gains a sidekick Fabu-Lad and an arch-nemeses Zachary Zarthos. But things change the Standard retires and his sidekick takes over Alex Thomas. He feels insecure about his role as the world’s greatest super-hero.

This Standard made a promise and he plans to keep it. Thats what decides if he is a hero or not. Doing whats right because its right and no other reason.

The Standard wants to keep his promise to find Amy Harris a nine year old missing girl. He wants to be a true hero, not just a media fake.

Things certainly go in an unexpected way here. Alex’s sleazy agent turns out not to be all sleazy too.

In this world in the present day things have changed from the way they were for the original Standard. The heroes and villains such as the Corpse or the Piper are a lot more vicious, they are killers.

This story shows both Standards as heroes in their own ways. The old steps up to keep the promise of the new one when he can not. A promise by the Standard no matter which one is a promise and a promise is a promise.

The ending is so emotionally charged. This is what a super-hero comic should be. The Standard sets the standard for all other super-hero comics.

Glowing praise indeed!  Thanks so much, Richard!  Check out that review here.  I also did an interview with Jazma Online, which will be getting featured on the blog later this week.

Finally, we have a positive review for The Standard #1-3 from Steven Paugh of Comic Bastards.  As you can guess from their name, they don’t take themselves entirely seriously and adopt something of a humourous approach to their reviews.  I was sitting on the train laughing at certain parts of this review, which must have made me look quite weird to random onlookers.  Check it out:

I admit it, I’m a sucker for concepts like that which drives Comix Tribe’s The Standard. But what can I say? I’m the product of a post-Marvelman, post Watchmen world, and as such have developed a healthy respect for frailty. At the same time, I’ve grown to appreciate a concept of Time in my comics. Normally impervious to it “in-story,” comic books, as a medium, are simultaneously shaped by Time. Superman, for example, never ages, yet we define him by Ages; Golden, Silver or otherwise. Even in a world without Time, things change. And this is where I think The Standard finds its strength. Given all the titles I just listed by comparison, this book may not be breaking any new ground, but by threading its story throughout the Ages and showing, in its own unique way, the stark contrast that exists between them, The Standard gives me what I crave from modern comics … and I don’t just mean old men in spandex.

The titular character in this book is your classic swarthy Golden Age adventurer – a heady mix between The Flash, Superman and any superhero who can shoot shit from his hands. Not actual shit, mind you, that would be awkward. I’m using the vernacular term “shit” here to describe “generic laser beams,” because I’m “down” with the “kids.” See if this sounds familiar: 44 years ago, mild mannered scientist Gilbert Graham, whose name suggests he’d either become a superhero or a breakfast cereal, is suddenly thrust into greatness one night when he is doused with chemicals after a meteor crashes into his lab. Thereafter developing (as science dictates) your basic cocktail of powers, like flight, super-strength and those shit-shootin’ mitts, he becomes The Standard, protector laureate of Sky City!

As we skip ahead to today, we find that Gil has retired from superheroics in favor of a quiet life as a high school chemistry teacher. In his place, he has left The Standard’s mantle to former sidekick and adopted ward, Alex Thomas. However, the former Fabu-Lad (which I’m pretty sure is the name of an escort service) is somewhat ill at ease within both his role as an “unworthy” successor to The Standard and in this new era, where heroes have become marketable commodities … and vice-versa.

Just as the line between good and evil has been blurred, so too has the art of crime-fighting, with a harder-edged cast of characters, like lethal vigilante, The Corpse, as well as its own, Age-specific set of perils. It’s an inescapable truth that quickly catches up with The (new) Standard and explodes in an honestly shocking turn of events pretty early on, which forces The (O.G.) Standard to nut-up, talc down and pour himself back into his orange and purple spandex to once again save the day.

What is great about this book is the way it addresses that element of Time I mentioned above. We’ve seen glimpses of this in those books I compared it to, but The Standard does an enviable job of illustrating it, perhaps more clearly. This is particularly well done on one page, where our hero faces down, in two different ages respectively, a cadre of skunk-based henchmen armed with unbreakable bats, and a mindless horde of murderous children armed with … fingernails and teeth, I guess.

And herein is the crux of this story. In days gone by, The Standard would busy himself with ridiculous super villains, the kind that dress up and arm themselves like odiferously-offensive woodland creatures to commit crimes, not because they were evil, but because they were bored. Now, however, he is forced into sewer-based bouts with pedophilic hobo telepaths … which would be a great band name, by the way. “I’ve never struck a child in my life,” says The Standard as he bears down upon this villain, known as The Piper, “but now you’ve just made me knock out a roomful of them.” Like I said before … things change.

The way The Standard shunts between these eras and defines them against each other  can admittedly be a bit jarring, stylistically, but the way it exemplifies the varying nature of threats between the Golden Age and today is well done, as is the treatment of same by the medium itself. The action in the former, for example is peppered with hokey exposition and pun-heavy, cheesy quips, while that of the latter is mostly silent, allowing the situation to speak for itself, other than perhaps the desperate lamentations of its reluctant hero. There is one poignant scene where we are given witness to the exact moment of this sea change; the missing link that bridges the divide between The Skunk and The Piper. The loss of innocence therein is both unexpected and suitably rending.

At the same time, this book has a lot of fun with itself. Any comic that makes a reference to “” (which, upon further inspection and a subsequent history wipe on my wife’s computer, is not an actual website) is okay in my book! Plus, its use of sound effects is … well, it’s ridiculous. Like me, you probably wouldn’t think that “words” like “RIIIITNASCHNOZZ” “OHSNAP” and “POWND” could be used to describe sound, but I guess that makes us both assholes, because that’s exactly how they are used here, to both unexpected and hilarious effect.

As for the art, while I enjoy its sinewy feel, it varies a lot in quality, even from panel to panel. I’m not sure how the same artist who can so beautifully illustrate the fantastically goofy-assed character, The Frying Scotsman in one panel, and then plop down what looks like a fan art drawing of The (new) Standard in the next. Artistic inconstancy is definitely The Standard’s most glaring issue, but its moments of brilliance and conceptual design far outweigh it.

There is still a lot of story left to tell here, not to mention mysteries that are still afoot. This one’s pretty indie, which means it lacks some polish, but for my money, The Standard is an impressive book. It may walk where others have previously tread, but it does so with a decidedly rare stylistic gait that glides as much as it galumphs.

Score: 3/5

Thank you for the very well-written review, Steven, it was a treat to read!  Check out the review over at Comic Bastards here.

That was nice, 3/3 on nice reviews.  Hopefully we’ll have more reviews to share in the coming weeks!

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