The high concept of the book is sure to draw comparisons to “Toy Story” or “Small Soldiers” or “Indian in the Cupboard”, but the executed product is in a class all by itself. Set in Brooklyn of 1944, this is the story of Maxwell — a teddy bear — and his plaything compatriots in a young boy’s room. Mercilessly attacked by a dark force from the closet — indentified as the Boogeyman — the young boy is spirited away in the night. The boy’s possessions, led by a toy soldier known as the Colonel, quickly rally to mount a rescue mission.
Boogeyman’s will is the way in the dark — at least according to his foot soldiers, given voice and thought by Mike Raicht and Brian Smith. The duo renders a story of dedication and courage as the army of toys braves the great unknown of the dark (the closet) to retrieve the boy. The army is an odd assortment of characters, from a sprung jack-in-the-box to a piggy bank and many more childhood companions in between. With minimal characterization, Raicht and Smith still manage to make these toys compelling leads to follow on their adventure.
Delivered in a square format (8×8), this will not be a standard comic book in physical dimension. Nor is this a standard comic inside. Wilson delivers some absolutely phenomenal art. Rendered in grayscale imagery with backgrounds akin to paper bag texture, this book lets the artwork present itself as strongly as possible. While the story may have some comparisons drawn to it, the art is beyond compare. Wilson’s differences between the “real” world and the toys as they appear in the Dark are at once stunning and comforting. There is no doubt which toy is which once rendered more lifelike in the Dark, but it is also here that they each take on a more lifelike countenance.
This book is perched to become a surprise hit of 2009, much like “Mouse Guard” was four years ago. This is the book retailers just might mistakenly overlook, but don’t let your retailer fail you. You can get a peek at this story this weekend on Free Comic Book Day.
The first twenty pages of the “The Stuff of Legend” #1 will be available as a Free Comic Book Day comic, but the first issue clocks in at 52 pages. You’ll get part of the story for free, but you’ll find yourself wanting more.