Tuesday, July 13, 2010

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

One of the breakthrough series from last year was The Stuff of Legend. Featuring a group of toys that venture into “the dark” to rescue a kidnapped boy from the Boogeyman. Sounds like a children's book, right? Equal parts Toy Story and Fables, this book is betrayed by such a simple description, as it is a wonderful tale full of strong characters, incredible moments, and beautiful art. You can see my previous two reviews here.

It was a short two-issue mini series, which left me aching for more. Luckily for me, The Stuff of Legend is back again, with a four issue mini series called The Jungle. One of the writers of this series, Mike Raitch, was kind enough to send me an advance copy so I could review it. Hit the jump to see my thoughts on this debut issue.

The Stuff of Legend - The Jungle #1

Written by Mike Raitch & Brian Smith
Art by Charles Paul Wilson III
Design and Color by Jon Conkling & Michael DeVito

The story opens with a scene similar to how the first series started: the boy (which, unless I missed something, hasn’t been named yet) wakes up in his bed, or so he thinks. Though there’s similitude with his bedroom, he quickly realizes that he is in another place altogether: the dark. It’s a creepy and puzzling scene, raising even more questions, especially by the fact that the boy is seemingly not alone.

The toys, meanwhile, are still looking for the boy and on the run from the armies of the Boogeyman. Part of this battle scene was printed in the Free Comic Book Day sampler from earlier this year, so I got a bit of deja vu, but if this is your first time into the world of Stuff of Legend, it’ll quickly introduce you to all the characters and their personalities. Percy (a piggy bank), Max (a teddy bear), Jester (a Jack-in-the-box), Harmony (erm, I’m not exactly sure what kind of toy she is, she looks like a metal ballerina), Princess (an Indian woman from a Toy Soldier set), Quackers (a toy duck), and Scout the boy’s dog make up the main cast of the book.

As they escape the forces of the Boogeyman, they seek shelter in an abandoned zoo. Hot on their trail, however, is the army being lead by the General, who stars in one of my favorite scenes. He is confronted and threatened by the Boogeyman for his failings, and one of his young lieutenants is seemingly aiming for his position. I may be very wrong, but I think the creative team are planting seeds here that will lead to the General deserting his position and joining with the renegade toys on their quest.

Meanwhile, at the abandoned zoo, the toys spend the night, discussing their mission, their motives, and their feelings for each other. There is an extended scene between Jester and the Princess that is absolutely great. I can’t properly describe how good Raitch and Smith are at crafting the dialogue of their characters: every interaction is layered, full of personality, and intrigue. There is an incredible economy of panels here, each one of them counts, furthers the story, develop the characters, and hints at bigger mysteries to come.

Come morning, the army has caught up with toys, and while there seems to be no escape for them, a wild card is introduced into the play. I’m not going to spoil exactly what, but it is hinted at early in the book. It’s a last page reveal that has me highly expecting the next issue.

Of course, I could not finish this review without first mentioning the art team. I have already mentioned in previous reviews the incredible pencil art by Wilson III, and frankly enough, I’m running out of positive adjectives to describe it. If you have seen the art before, you know what to expect: heavy shadows, detailed backgrounds, and great facial expressions, even in non-human character. The team is rounded out by Conkling and DeVito, who craft this book with a sepia tone that gives this book a unique look and finish. It’s a group effort!

Verdict - Must Read. The creative team of Stuff of Legend has not missed a single step since the last series. The Jungle is just as good as it’s predecessor, if not even better. If you haven’t jumped on this series yet, do yourself a favor and do it now, you are going to thank me for it. 

Missed out on the first Stuff of Legend series?  You can now buy the collection of The Stuff of Legend: Book 1: The Dark on Amazon to get all caught up and support The Weekly Crisis!

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twobitspecialist said...

Man, I wasn't frequenting TWC (or a LCS, for that matter) last year enough to know about Stuff of Legend. I definitely need to check it out. Why in the world did it take so long for Vol. 2 to roll around?

Matt Duarte said...

You would have to ask them specifically, but I believe it's because the art takes a long time to produce. They probably wanted to make sure they would hit all the deadlines. If it's because of that, it's honestly worth it in my eyes.

Plus, the creators do this on their dime/time. I think they all have other jobs within the industry. (I know Mike Raitch writes for Marvel/DC, and Michael DeVito writes/wrote for Zuda)

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