This is how you adapt a classic. Artist Mike Perkins (with the immeasurable aid of the gifted Laura Martin on colors) has a strong, detailed, realistic style that suits the recognizable pop culture of the Stephen King source material.
Has the cast been stuck too long in Boulder, with little going on but learning how to live again in a country decimated by Captain Trips? The interpersonal dynamics represent basic social conflicts for King, and Aguirre-Sacasa knows that they also provide the main interest and focus to the plot developments. His dialogue and monologues are verbose but always informative. There’s little clutter in this story, just a lot of details as we move along and watch two opposing forces slowly rising from the ashes of our country. The conflict unfolds with epic slowness, but the pressure is building, issue by issue.
I think we may have been a little far from the action in Vegas, as Hardcases started out as a look at the sorts of depraved individuals attracted to the Dark Man, but eventually focused on the planning going on in the light side. Harold was always a snake in the grass, and he remains a creepy presence that can’t seem to recognize sincerity or empathy on the part of others. He’s too damaged, but he’s nothing compared to the real dark star of this issue (and its cover).
Because we have a bonafide Evil Queen in the person of Nadine Cross, whose lifelong dabbling with bad men and bad ideas have left her exceptionally vulnerable to the needs of Randall Flagg, and sort of uncontrollably disconnected from the actions of the Boulder Crew. If she once had hope, it’s been lost, though she makes one last rash gesture to change her fate this issue.
Perkins uses her mass of black hair, streaked with grey like Lily Munster’s, to form a dark halo around her extreme expressions and haunted eyes. It’s a small tragedy when she asks for help in exactly the way that ensures she won’t receive it, and that both parties realize it’s too late to connect in the way they should have, once before.
Sometimes two people are just no good for each other, but that rejection amounts to witnessing Nadine’s fall from grace, and we readers are the only ones placed well enough to see it unfold, and know what it really means. Perhaps the connection that happens this issue was inevitable, but it just feels wrong, even as we can’t stop watching it unfold.
Is it heavy-handed and simplistic that the fight between good and evil merely involves choosing sides? Yes, but it’s also by turns thrilling and frightful. This team remains as surefooted as ever in depicting small-scale human triumphs and tragedies within the framework of an epic disaster.