As the past generation’s bright optimism must reconcile itself and walk alongside with today’s world weary cynicism, so too does our individual ideas regarding comic book heroes. As today’s generation of comic book readers, it is difficult for us to realistically accept heroes with an uncompromising moral code. The exception of course is the gold standard of superheroes, DC Comic’s Superman. However, those heroes who are uncompromising run the risk of being considered, in a sense, one note characters. On the other side of the spectrum (in spite of today’s moral decay) there is a school of thought by comic book purists, that believes we need these unblemished heroes now more than ever.
That is the case made in writer John Lees’ and artist Jonathan Rector’s The Standard. And as far as I’m concerned, that’s this title’s problem. The Standard revolves around, not on the original super powered crime fighter who originated the identity, but actually his kid sidekick. The issue opens in the present day, and the first Standard, scientist Gilbert Graham (who received his superpowers as a result of a meteorite crashing into his laboratory) is long retired. His mantle is taken up by his former sidekick Fabu-Lad aka Alex Thomas. Unfortunately, under Alex’s tenure, that mantle has been mired under today’s commercialism and Alex is more reality TV star than heroic crime fighter. He’s reduced to catching bad guys for the camera and even, at point, staging super villain attacks with his manager. However, it is a promise made to a distraught woman to find her missing daughter that haunts Thomas and makes him start to question the road he’s traveling down.
Unfortunately, it’s the third act that puts a damper on the momentum writer Lee’s script builds to. And it also calls for a character we haven’t become, as readers, emotionally invested in to resolve it. The shift in focus to this character comes out of nowhere and undermines what I think is the more interesting character of Alex Thomas. This should have been a book focusing solely on him. The subject matter concerning the decline of our generation’s heroes is one that has been broached in comics before. Artist Alex Ross and writer Mark Waid’s mini-series Kingdom Come for one is an example and in my opinion handles the subject with more depth and gives a satisfying and nuanced resolution to it. I don’t think this title could add anything further to what has already been said.
The art by Jonathan Rector, is the best part of the book. Rector emphasizes the drama with a well confidant use of inked shadows. The only qualms I have are that in some of the action shots, the perspective is a bit off. Overall, the art is good. Unfortunately, for me, it cannot save a story with a misguided sense of character direction.
And it’s a shame, because I wanted to like this book. Squeaks in at a 3 out of 5 thanks to Jonathan Rector’s art.
The Standard #1
Written by John Lees
Art by Jonathan Rector
Colored by Ray Dillon
Lettered by Kel Nuttall
Edited by Steven Forbes
Genre: Action/Adventure, Drama, Mythology, Superhero
Comixology Link: http://www.comixology.com/The-Standard-1/digital-comic/43411