Tuesday, October 20, 2009

The Stuff of Legend Vol. 1 - The Dark #2 Advance Review


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

Some time ago, I reviewed the first issue of the surprise hit The Stuff of Legend, which has gotten some press time since its release. The creators were kind enough to send us over at The Weekly Crisis the second issue to review, and I was eager to get my hands on it after the incredible first issue. Can a series really live up to such big expectations? Is the second issue going to suffer from a sophomore slump or is it going to knock it out of the park? Hit the jump for my review, but keep in mind that there will be spoilers ahead.

Let me put this second issue in a movie analogy that will still appeal to our nerdier aspects: Remember how you felt when you read/watched The Fellowship of the Ring for the first time? It was awesome, right? Now remember what it was like when you watched/read The Two Towers, when the action really starts breaking out beyond developing beyond just setting up the characters, when the quest becomes and adventure? This is what this second issue is like.

This is by no means a knock on the first issue, which was still great, but the second issue doesn't have to stop or slow down to introduce the characters, the enemy, or the conflict. It just hits the ground running as the group of toys are on the run from the enemy forces of the Boogeyman, surviving as best as they can without the leadership of The Colonel, and seek refuge in a nearby town called Hopscotch (actually a board game). Once they get there, though, they realize that Hopscotch is not what it appears and it is ruled by it's Mayor, and all of it's citizens are forced to play The Game.

The group of toys do not want to be involved in this game, still seeking out The Boy, but one by one are slowly imprisoned because they break the rules or annoy The Mayor (who reads the rules). Jester, particularly, gets sent to jail among all the other cheaters, including a Gingerbread Man who looks like he is going to play a bigger role in the future. The only toy that manages to stay on the good side of the Mayor is Percy (the pig), who lawfully challenges him for the life and freedom of histoymates. The Mayor realizes that Percy is also working for the Boogeyman, and together they hatch a plan to dispose of the other toys by playing The Game.

Percy plays along with the Mayor, giving a good show all throughout the Game, but changes his mind at the last minute, earning the Mayor's ire. At the same time, Jester escapes from prison and helps to defeat the Mayor, who is revealed to have been making up the rules as he went along. The citizens of Hopscotch do not take kindly to this and kick him out. Days later, The Boogeyman who was "indisposed" previously, learns of the toys presence at Hopscotch.

Like I said, the second issue of Stuff of Legend is incredibly entertaining and fast paced, but without sacrificing character moments. Max, Percy, and especially Jester get plenty of character development. I particularly enjoyed Jester's worldview, which is hinted at while being imprisoned, that seems to be a mix of anarchism, positivism and rationalism. "I have spent time in quarters tighter than this" he says, as he cheerfully sits in prison, plotting his escape. With that much personality, it's easy to forget that the characters are supposed to be toys.

Another great thing is that the storytelling, both script and art-wise, is incredibly effective: every panel tells a story, every page expands the world of Stuff of Legend, and every line hints at larger things to come. Some mysteries are resolved, while others deepen and deepen, making you wonder just how much the creators have figured ahead of time, or how much they plan to leave up to the imagination. The art definitely helps, which is still as gorgeous as the previous issue. Emotive and kinetic when it needs to be, not to mention creepy (that second to last panel of the Boogeyman is going to give me nightmares).

Verdict - Must Read. If I had to use one word to describe this book, it would be perfect. The harmony that the creators bring to this book makes it sing in every level. The only complaint I could possibly make is that now I must wait until 2010 for the next issue of The Stuff of Legend. Get this issue, and the previous ones, and the ones to come, you will not regret it at all.

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Servando Gomez said...

It was thanks to your first review for Volume that i checked it out and fell in love with it. My only problem with this review that it seems you posted some things that may qualify as spoilers. Not that I have checked it out or bought it yet but I think you may have gone a bit overboard in trying to sell (well go in depth in explaining) book.

Matt Ampersand said...

@Servando: Hmmm, I think you are probably right, and I apologize. I came at this like I would have for a normal review, instead of an advance review that it is. I'll add in a warning in the introduction. But like I said, I'm sorry if I spoiled something, but let me assure you, the journey in this case is just as important as the destination.

Servando Gomez said...

It's all fine by me but yeah i just took notice that you were reviewing what seemed to be all the major plot points of the story. I was a bit alarmed is all.

cpwilsoniii said...

Thanks for the incredibly kind review, Matt!

Matt Ampersand said...

No, Charles, thank you for the wonderful art!

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