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The Stand: Hardcases #4

A comic review article by: Shawn Hill
Plot: The good guys in Colorado seek to marshal their forces and even plan a dangerous intelligence gathering exercise. If they can find anyone brave (or stupid) enough to take the risk.

Comments: This is frankly not the most exciting issue of this title. Thomas Coker's cover portrait of Harold is overwrought, a too-literal depiction of a metaphorical description mentioned in passing inside. We are not in fact in touch with the "hardcases" at all this issue, instead spending our time with the light brigade gathered in Colorado, who seek to prepare for the coming battle they all sense, and that Mother Abigail has predicted.

This issue involves lovemaking, a planning meeting by the newly and self-appointed town elders, a long night of struggle with a devil, a belated realization, and a few initial meetings between strangers that set the tone for all that will follow. Perkins of course excels at this sort of basic human interaction, but given that this is a supernatural horror story, this issue delivers surprisingly few chills or thrills. It's more like a creeping feeling of unease and urgency impels the survivors into their hesitant actions.

Well, this is what you get when Stephen King's version of representation of the people by the people unfolds. No one is so big and mighty as to have boundless confidence in their actions and those that do seem absolutely sure of themselves are usually the delusional or crazy ones. So in the meeting where volunteers are nominated to invade enemy forces, it's significant that the two nay votes (made by women worried about sacrificing innocents to who knows what Randall Flagg's people are capable) are withdrawn when it's clear that the majority feels differently, in the service of presenting a unified front. Those changed votes don't mean anyone's mind was changed or anyone's doubts are assuaged. It's just more practical and loftier goal for the leaders to present a front of solidarity when taking such a drastic step.

The real chill this issue comes from Mother Abigail's confrontation with a talking wolf in her bedroom and Perkins does a great job selling the subtle horror of this incongruity, a shocking enough event to spur Abigail to unexpected solo action. There's nothing wrong, actually, with this issue. It's just that given the exciting, squeamish, intense, and horrific sequences we've witnessed thus far, it's a bit of a letdown to take a breather before what is hopefully all hell breaking loose next issue.

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