Stuff of Legend Vol. 1: The Dark

Written by Mike Raicht and Brian Smith
Art by Charles Paul Wilson III
128 pages, color
Published by Villard Books

So far as I can tell, during last year’s Free Comic Book Day, I missed out on a doozy of a good title. That’s when Th3rd World Studios published The Stuff of Legend #0, the first chapter in their new series about a group of toys traveling into the land of the Boogeyman to rescue their young owner. Now that I’ve read this first collection of the series, I’m a little sad that it’s taken me this long to hear about it. While the basic idea behind the series might not cause you to bat an eye, it’s the way that the creators tell their story that makes it so entrancing.

The Stuff of Legend Vol. 1: The Dark surprised me in how quickly it grabbed my attention. From the opening scenes of the Boogeyman’s attack and the toys determining which of them will travel through the darkened closet door after him, to the different lands ruled by the Boogeyman known as the Dark that the toys fight their way through, there’s always something to keep the reader engaged. Mike Raicht and Brian Smith’s story never feels too simple, with World War II raging on in the real world while an entirely different war is rolled out on different fronts among the toys. Raicht and Smith use the Boogeyman himself sparingly, but letting us get enough glimpses of the main bad guy in this story to make sure the reader understands that he’s not a comical figure, or one to be written off quickly. He’s a ruthless dictator in his own right, one that rules the Dark through not only fear and intimidation but also cunning words and trickery. His confrontations with several of the characters leave an early mark on them, and his warnings about toys being forgotten and discarded show that there’s more to this story than initially meets the eye.

The world itself is rich with detail as well, from shock troops of different forms of toys guarding the entrances to the Dark, to the city of Hopscotch that is used as a refuge in the second half of the book. You get the feeling that Raicht and Smith’s imagination has come up with all sorts of crazy things for the heroes to encounter, and that’s a good thing. As for the heroes themselves, some are more fleshed out than others in these early chapters, but the most fascinating is the Percy, the piggy bank. The attempts of being seduced over to the side of the Boogeyman are powerful, perhaps because Raicht and Smith have a character who knows that in the real world is designed to eventually be smashed open with a hammer. It’s not the kind of dilemma you normally see in this sort of story, but The Stuff of Legend not only tackles it but fails to provide a easy solution for Percy and company.

Charles Paul Wilson III draws The Stuff of Legend in a rich sepia tone, heavy on detail and texture for the characters and settings. When Percy is being talked to by the Boogeyman, you can see him squirm on both the outside and the inside thanks to the pig’s posture and conflicted expressions. The toys look so alive and full of energy here, it’s a beautiful contrast to the way that we first see them in the real world. Even the little details, like the rivets that keep Harmony’s body together, or the way that the Jester flops around when imprisoned as if he has nothing but stuffing inside of him, makes you just marvel at the gorgeous art on display. The sepia tone coloring is a nice touch, too; it evokes the old war films from back in the day, and gives The Stuff of Legend an old-time feel.

Villard Books is doing a great job of finding series like The Stuff of Legend and Mouse Guard and publishing beautiful softcover collections to help them get out into the greater marketplace. Th3rd World Studios is already working on a second The Stuff of Legend mini-series, which will pick up where this first volume left off. The Stuff of Legend is a good reminder that sometimes it’s not necessarily the idea, but rather the way you tell the story that makes a book memorable. After you’ve read The Stuff of Legend, you’ll be ready for more.

Purchase Links: Amazon.com | Powell’s Books

2 comments to Stuff of Legend Vol. 1: The Dark

  • Francisco

    I must say that I am sort of an art snob. If the artwork is not to my liking, I won’t even bother. So the first thing that attracted me to TSOL was the artwork. Then after reading the storyline I went full on into collecting the issues.

    After reading the story thus far, I will say that it’s the artwork that I appreciate. The story line and dialogue between characters are very, very thin and disjointed. I find myself lacking in patience reading through an issue but I still carry on hoping it gets better.

    Artwork 9.5, story 5-.

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