Friday, July 16, 2010

Waiting for Trade? – Stuff of Legend Book 1: The Dark

Creative Team: Mike Raicht and Brian Smith (W), Charles Wilson (A)
Price: $13.00
Available Now (special signed edition available from Th3rd World's website with original sketch!)

During the 1940s a young boy is kidnapped by the Boogieman and taken into the Dark. It’s up to his loyal toys and pet dog to journey into the unknown to rescue their boy. I know some people were skeptical of this one saying that talking toys were nothing new. I’ll agree; that part of the premise has been interpreted in several different ways before, but this is no Toy Story.

 When the toys enter the Dark they change. The toy soldier and Indian princess become real flesh and blood versions of themselves. The teddy bear becomes a fierce grizzly. And there isn’t a happy fairyland waiting inside the closet for them. Instead they must do battle with the Boogieman’s army of forgotten toys and journey through his mysterious and hostile world, all in the hopes of somehow finding and saving their boy. As with Beasts of Burden, this isn’t really a little kid’s book. There are some darker elements to the story, like death and betrayal, that are probably too much for very young readers.

The toys are all very individual with different opinions on what they are doing and how far they should go. The toy soldier is very loyal, while the highly intelligent piggy bank has some doubts about if they can succeed. The toys interact well off of each other and create an interesting group dynamic. The boy’s dog, Scout, is the only character to not change in the dark, remaining an un-upgraded puppy amid shooting cowboys and bayonet wielding soldiers. Some of the toys are wary of him due to his habit of chewing on them back home, but others are more understanding.

The art alone was enough to sell me on the project. I saw the preview of the book from last year’s Free Comic Book Day (which you can read for yourself here) and was floored by the art. It’s done in a sepia toned shaded pencil and it really captures the feel of the story, adding to the atmosphere of the book (for a process piece on how he does it read here). The characters are amazingly drawn, adorable in toy form and fearsome in the Dark. The Boogieman is scary and unsettling and everything the terror of childhood should be. I was shocked when I learned that this is the artist’s first work in comics. I would not be surprised if we see more of him in the future (he has deservedly been nominated for a Russ Manning Promising Newcomer Award).

I usually try to post a lot of interview to let people see as much about the book as possible, but I really feel this one speaks for itself in the previews.  But I'm a creature of habit, so here are some interviews with the writers and artist about Volume 2.  Here is a quick video interview with the gang.  Here are a few older interviews from when the first issue was announced in case you are worried about spoilers or just want to see what the buzz was like and the pitch that got me and many others very interested.

This book contains the first volume of the tale, which was released in two huge no ad comics last year. Due to the fantastic response to that first volume several more are planned. The story will continue to be told in miniseries with the second volume beginning this week (which you can preview here, according to that cover we're getting a cymbal monkey!). The creators know how the story will end, but how long they have to tell the story of the journey depends on sales.  The better it does the longer the story can continue and the fuller the picture will be.  I encourage everyone to pick this one up and give it a try.  I really can't recommend it enough.    Lots of other people have good things to say about it too.  And like many of those that I recommend I will probably be picking up this trade even though I own the floppies for the fantastic extra content.

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