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.