Drawing inspiration from television shows, movies and modern, independent comics, Lucas Stand is a gritty comic that mixes genres in a wide reaching story. It punches you in the gut from the opening page and challenges you to like the unlikable and not to prejudge a character. This is a challenge in an age when the difference between ‘good and evil' is made so obvious in most modern narrative mediums.
The titular character, Lucas Stand, has not been having a good time since leaving the army. He has trouble adjusting to his civilian life, especially with the amount of alcohol he drinks. A confrontation gets him fired from his job. And this is just one in a long line of uncontrollable disasters. The final straw is an incident on the highway that results in the death of a family. The accident was inadvertently caused by Lucas but due to his current ‘state’ he fails to immediately see the consequences of his actions. When he finds out, thanks to a news report, Lucas decides to do everyone a favour and take his own life.
The opening of this comic is grim. It deals with some hard subject matter from alcoholism to suicide. The way that Lucas is portrayed in the first few pages make him a difficult character to empathise with.
But it’s at this point in the narrative, and at this point Lucas’ ‘life’, that things begin to get really interesting. Lucas finds himself thrown into a crazy afterlife where a supernatural soldier offers him ‘the coin' as a way of employment. Lucas doesn't believe what he sees, thinking it is all some hallucination as a result of a bullet to the head.
It only starts to get real for him when he is attacked by a form shifting demon and embroiled in a chase to the roof and eventually into the past. Lucas awakes in the middle of Germany during the Second World War, disorientated. The narrative suddenly turns into an espionage drama; a supernatural Borne story with Lucas completely out of his depth. The unapologetic deadbeat is turned into a reluctant hero, of sorts.
Lucas Stand has been created by Kurt Sutter who is famous for creating and writing Sons of Anarchy, and if you've watched that show, you can see his hand in this comic. Lucas is a rough and ready character with a massive chip on his shoulder. He's on the verge of being a villain and gives off a bad boy vibe. In fact, one of the draw backs is that he's almost too unlikable in the beginning. It creates a large gulf for him to climb out of and one that some readers might not want to stick around for. It isn't until he's thrown into a situation where he is face to face with someone who needs his help that there is a spark of an appealing personality.
Once the narrative gets going it's swimming with familiarity. There's a touch of Quantum Leap and J. Michael Straczynski's Ten Grand but the closest comparison would be with the television series Life on Mars (the British version, I've not seen the one with Jason O'Mara) but with added Nazi's. The words from the show's opening "Am I mad, in a coma, or back in time? Whatever's happened, it's like I've landed on a different planet" ring in the ear as soon as Lucas wakes up in Germany.
This is not a bad thing, the comic is written well and has a wonderfully paced script but you would expect this from a seasoned writer like Sutter. There are just so many elements from different styles of genres all vying for space in a single issue. It's like Sutter has been given a bottomless budget and told to go wild.
The outlandish story is somewhat tamed by Jesus Hervas' art work which is grounded in reality. His design and layout is immaculate with panels that flow so effortlessly into one another. The transition from image to image is intrinsically comic book but at the same time it has the essence of a brilliantly directed movie. There are shifting points of view, mood shots, directional shots, emotional close ups and action sequences full of energy and violence. Whereas the script may nag at you for elements of unoriginality, the art is grimy and dark and whole heartedly beautiful to read.
As a first issue Lucas Stand is gripping and immediately pulls you into his strange new world. It's entertaining, disturbing and a none stop thrill ride from start to finish.
Lucas Stand was published by Boom! Studios, written by Kurt Sutter and illustrated by Jesus Hervas.