Tuesday, July 14, 2009

The Stuff of Legends #1 – A Review

The Stuff of Legend #1 (of 2)

Publisher Th3rd World Studios

Writers Mike Raicht & Brian Smith

Pencils Charles Paul Wilson III

Colors & Design Mike DeVito & Jon Conkling

Release Date : Should be July 22 or 29

I don’t believe I have ever done a second review of the same book, but I was given the chance by the publisher to look at the final cut of this book before it hits the stands later this month. I hate the term instant classic or some other such nonsense as only the test of time will let us know what is and is not a classic, but certain books hit like a thunderclap and evoke a deep emotional response from me and I want to share the treasure I have found with the world. The recent works of that category are All Star Superman and Mouse Guard. They have a timeless quality to them that make them stand out from the rest of the crowd. They have great writing and drop dead gorgeous art and they are unique and special and deserve all the glowing praise that one they throw at them. Stuff of Legends #1 is another of that ilk and I just re-read issue #1.

This is a remarkable book. What impressed me this time is that since I did not have to read it as tight, I viewed it as a two page spread and what struck me was the design of the book. It feels look an old time book and takes me back to my childhood when you would sit on the floor and have this big book that would cover your lap when you open it. As you flip each page the story almost tells itself without any words.

The opening prologue is a boy and his dog asleep on his bed. A closet door rattles and a monstrous tentacle of darkness comes out and grabs the boy dragging his frightened and scared witless form into the closet door as it slams shut. Close your eyes for a minute and think back to a time when you were a young child. The room was dark and some strange sound was heard. You imagined a monster under the bed or in a closet or outside your door. The creeping horror was so bad you had to catch you breath and maybe turn on a light to dispel those shadows. All of that was evoked in just that opening sequence.

Then the toys come to life and the army guy takes charge to solicit support of the teddy bare, the piggy bank, and the wooden duck that quacked as you pulled it along the floor. They are getting together to come after you and save you. It has that Toy Story element to it, but that does not belong to the movies, that belongs to every child who in their mind knew their favorite toys were alive and they were their friends. They lived in your room with you and watched over you and you knew they would come to your aid if needed.

The next chapter is the battle to try and save the boy. As the toys step into the next world they become real. The teddy bare is in fact a massive grizzly bear all fangs and claws. The solider is a fearsome fighting man directing his troops to take down the enemy and is desperately trying to find the boy. The bad guy is creepy, dark, deceitful and nasty and is so powerful you fear the toys can never win.

The level of violence and danger is intense, but so are all good fables and children’s tales from years past. The original Grimm Fairy Tales were made up to keep children rooted in their parents’ home and not move a step for fear of losing their lives. Parents did not have the luxury to watch the children as they both had to work their farm or jobs, so they needed their children to stay home and those fairy tales did the trick.

This book has those qualities and then it has even more. It is also set in a specific time and place. The boy is at home during WWII and his father is in the army and the fear the father may never come home has to reside within the boy. The battle for the boy is an allegory for what is going on over in the European Theatre of War. I’m sure more literate people then I will find other things that are being evoked and will catch onto perhaps what different things are representing, but I will still just make my judgment on what I read and what I saw. What I read was a great story, what I saw was an illustrator who has captured all the emotions I have mentioned above. The artist has a strongly realistic style and an artist whose original art should be selling for hundreds of dollars a page. Charles Paul Wilson is a name I did not know before but he has the talent level of a Hal Foster and the story telling talents of a Jack Kirby.

If you don’t buy this book for yourself, buy it for your nephew, your son, you daughter, your niece and read it to them. Sit on the floor and unfold each page with them and read it aloud, hold their hand when it gets frightening and gasp when they gasp.

I know it sounds a little corny and maybe over the top, but I really believe this is a book that is worth seeking out and asking you comic shop to order for you.

Grading this type of book an A is almost an insult as it is one of those truly rare masterpieces which stand alone.

This chapter ends with no resolution, some of our heroes broken or compromised and a real concern the boy will not be saved. I can’t wait for the second half of this story. September can’t come fast enough.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for the wonderful comments, Jim! Don't know if I'll ever measure up to the likes of Kirby or Foster, but immensely appreciated just the same!