With supernatural ass-kicking, a hard-drinking narrator and a breakneck pace, "Lucas Stand" #1 clearly plays to its creators' strengths. Lucas' tough, disaffected masculinity suggests much of what fans loved about Kurt Sutter's "Sons of Anarchy," wÂ¬hile the book's upfront, voice-driven exposition draws heavily on Caitlin Kittredge's "Coffin Hill" skill set. So far as the visuals, JesÃºs HervÃ¡s and Adam Metcalfe draw a gritty, modern world with action and atmosphere to spare. Though the issue begins with a distinct voice and killer kickoff, the second half drops that momentum for a more confused, uninventive time travel sequence that never quite pays off. "Lucas Stand" #1 definitely delivers on voice and concept, but it left me less excited on the last page than I was on the third.
Lucas' personality dominates the issue. He narrates heavily and provides most of the dialogue, so a reader's love for the story depends almost entirely on how compelling and believable you find him. He's an ex-soldier who's become addicted to alcohol and drugs since being injured in the line of duty, and Sutter establishes his tough-guy persona from the first line: "We like to think we've got free will, but that's bullshit." However, this macho posturing is also balanced with self-recriminations like, "It's not the pills or the whiskey that's responsible for the things I do. That's all me." I've certainly read similar narrators before, but Lucas makes more impulsive, destructive decisions in the first few pages than many characters are allowed to make in entire arcs. Sutter and Kittredge put their narrative money where their mouth is, and it pays off; I genuinely didn't know what Lucas would do next.
However, the second half of the issue falters. Lucas is sent back to 1940s Germany, and he's quickly caught up in a Nazi Resistance plot. Initially, I just couldn't get a grasp on the stakes; it was unclear what the consequences for Lucas might be if he and his Resistance comrades were caught. Add in some uneven pacing and spotty world building, and I was left suddenly less interested in what comes next. The underlying mechanics do seem interesting; I just wish they were revealed with more plot tension.
HervÃ¡s and Metcalfe give Lucas a gritty world, with plenty of texture and lines in faces, clothes and floors. Lucas is drawn as an angry, impressively muscled mess from the first panel, and HervÃ¡s captures the extreme facial expressions and jerky movements of a character under the influence. His eye for body language is equally useful in the action scenes, where characters are hurled from chairs, flung off rooftops and smashed through doors.
In Lucas' present, Metcalfe's color schemes are all mood. Whole panels are bathed in blue or sickly green or covered in claustrophobic browns and oranges. Lucas' perception colors everything. Once the book moves to the 1940s, however, that effect gets diminished for a slightly more scene-setting, realistic look. Though this effect clarifies the time change and establishes Lucas' new environment, I was left wishing for more of the moodiness to come back.
"Lucas Stand" #1 may have lost me a bit near the end, but -- if issue #2 recaptures the excitement and drive of those first twelve pages -- "Lucas Stand" should be more than enough to fill the "Sons of Anarchy" hole in your heart.