Mike Raicht, Brian Smith & Charles Paul Wilson III
The Stuff of Legend is a two-issue series from Th3rd World Studios that follows a group of toys that come to life when not around humans, ala Toy Story. The book first caught my attention with the Free Comic Book Day edition that offered over twenty pages of the beginning of the story, where young Johnny is taken prisoner by The Bogeyman from out of his closet, his toys watching on helplessly. When he's gone, a chest of toys opens with some of the braver toys and together, they mount a rescue led up by an Army figurine, but including toys such as a teddy bear, a ballerina, a piggy bank, a jack-in-the-box and a wooden duck. This story takes place in 1944, so the toys are much more old-fashioned than what we're used to nowadays, but it's still a good variety of figures to venture forth into the closet and the realm of The Bogeyman.
What really caught my attention with this series is the art. Wilson's drawings are realistic and utterly beautiful, with a great eye for detail and design. If not for the art, this book would hardly be worth picking up. But as is, it's one of the most gorgeously-illustrated comics on the "New Release" shelves of the local comic shop, leaving little wonder as to why this first issue went on to a second printing after a generous overprinting of the first edition. Kind of neat about this version of a "Toy Story" adventure is that once the toys walk into the closet and the territory of The Bogeyman, they transform from their plastic and glass fragile bodies into real-live G.I. Joes and grizzly bears and Indian princesses. I love the transition, the great designs that the creators came up with for these two aspects of the characters. The book is illustrated without color, expect for a yellowed tint meant to make it feel old, and the vast armies of the antagonist give the book a very epic feel, although beyond the original premise, it's pretty straightforward, and even that is borrowed from pop culture (even the square format is borrowed from another all-ages success story in comicdom: Mouse Guard). I enjoyed reading this book, but seeing people ripped in half in the second act, following the cute furry animals and toys discussing poor Johnny, makes this tale seem pretty uneven. And The Bogeyman is really a genuinely scary design, leaving me wondering what audience a story like this is targeted for. But again, the art is the draw here. Boasting great character designs and wonderful illustrations that can be gazed upon again and again, this is certainly going to remain a successful title for Th3rd World Studios, but beyond that immediate appeal, there's not much substance.