Wednesday, July 29, 2009

The Stuff of Legend Vol. 1 - The Dark #1 Advance Review


Written by Mike Raicht and Brian Smith
Art by Charles Paul Wilson III

Mike Raicht, one of the creators of The Stuff Of Legend, was kind enough to send us an advance review of this brand new book, which you is coming out this Wednesday (and I assume Thursday in the U.K.) by Th3rd World Studios. The story is about a group of toys that embark on a quest to rescue their owner, who has been kidnapped. If this book doesn't sound like anything in your bookshelf, it probably is because it is a very unlikely book that honestly caught me off guard.

Hit the jump for the whole review.

Like I said, The Stuff of Legend is a book about a group of toys and a dog, that set off on a quest to rescue their owner, who has been kidnapped by none other than the Boogeyman. The book opens with the kidnapping scene, and the creators quickly introduce the conflict and a motley crew of characters. All the toys have different personalities and there's very little hints of their own psychosis. For example, there's a Jack-in-a-Box that acts very gentlemanly, but has a certain mean streak to him (it reminded me a lot of Ragdoll from Secret Six), or the Toy Soldier is a brave warrior but obviously too trusting of everyone else. There's infighting between them, and obvious prior relationships that are not mentioned but clearly inferred. Certain toys decide to stay behind and not help the boy, because now they feel like they belong to the younger brother.

Some of the toys and the dog head into "The Darkness" where the Boogeyman comes from, which is really just the closet in their bedroom. The shift is signaled by a change of the design of the characters: the teddy bear no longer looks all cuddly, now he looks like an actual bear, and the same for all the other characters. Once in there, a brutal fight with the Boogeyman's forces breaks out, until the big bad himself shows up, and tempts one of the group members intro secretly betraying the others, while killing another one. The book takes a decidedly dark turn towards the end, something very unexpected for a book about a bunch of toys. The ending definitely left me wanting for more.

The writing and scripting is incredibly tight. The creative team wastes no time introducing characters, and fully fleshing them out in the matter of panels. Every interaction seems very layered, and usually creates more questions than they answer. The dog's role is intriguing, because he is the only one that doesn't change once they go into the Darkness, or why a certain group of the Boogeyman's forces, the Indian toys, retreated at the sight of the Indian Princess, one of the toys that belongs to the boy. The boy's brother is heavily mentioned too, so I figure he is going to play a big role latter on. The fact that the writers were able to pack in so much into one issue (albeit an oversized one) is a credit to their talent.

And then there's the art. The art probably looks unlike anything else in your library, it could very well belong in a children's book or as the illustration at the beginning of chapters in books. It's hard to judge because I have a digital version, but the pages look like they are in a widescreen format (think 300), which allows them to fill the pages with wonderful character designs and moody backgrounds. It is all done in sepia tones, and there is a certain grotesqueness mixed with realism to it, that makes it hard to compare to any other artist in mainstream comics. Oddly enough, it reminds me of a lot of latter day Perry Bible Fellowship comics (such as this one or this other one).

Upon further research, I was able to find out that the first part of this story was released for Free Comic Book Day, which makes me wish I had gotten it. It is reprinted here for the people that were not able to get it. Additionally, if you wish you can read the FULL STORY released in FCDB for free over at Newsarama. This will give you a good taste of what this book is all about.

Verdict - Must Read. This is a delightful and creative book, probably very different from what you usually read. Imagine if you were reading Fables while listening to the Toy Story soundtrack, and you might get close to what this book is like. I know I am going to track down a copy of this, and you should definitely give it a try.

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Cat said...

One of these was on the shelf at my LCS. Took a quick thumb through it and decided to get it. Looks pretty interesting!

The Phoenix King said...

Sounds very cool. Next time I'm in the LCS, I'll take a gander and see if I can snag myself a copy. Thanks for the heads-up, and the great review!

Matt Ampersand said...

Oh shit, people are actually listening to me and doing my bidding...

Just as planned...

Seriously though, I'm glad you enjoyed the review.

The Phoenix King said...

@Matt Ampersand. You forgot your evil laugh!

Or are you simply using the Anti-Life Equation, you fiend! :)

Seriously though, it was a good review. It gave some good details on what the story was about, how it turned out, and the weaknesses and strengths of the book. That's what I call good review material.

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