The Stuff of Legend Volume II: The Jungle, Part I

Man I love reviewing comics! Every so often, a hidden gem, a diamond in the rough, a treasure to behold finds its way to my review pile. The first volume of "The Stuff of Legend" dazzled me, not unlike a deer caught unawares by the headlights of an approaching tractor-trailer. This volume is no different. Picking up from the previous tale and plowing forward unmercifully, this issue brings back all of the characters we've met before: from the treacherous swine, Percy, to the ghoulish Boogeyman that oozes out of the dark.

This book is haunting, both in story and in beauty. The design of the book evokes a hidden treasure unearthed after a de-cluttering session at the home of an elderly friend or relative. Through the magic of modern printing the pages appear tinted and worn, but worn from care and interest, rather than misuse and neglect. The story on those pages is a tale washed in sepia tones and rich shading. There is a depth to the images Wilson and his colorists deliver. That depth makes these animated toys more than imaginary playthings. The General sweats under scrutiny from the Boogeyman, and you can almost smell it. The Jester illuminates a map and you can all but feel the heat from the fire.

The story itself is about the dedication and devotion these playthings possess. They are driven to find their missing human master, and no force will stop them. Though they bicker and grumble amongst themselves, these characters will fight alongside one another to the death -- all for the boy.

Their tenacity has driven the Boogeyman to a breaking point, and it's that breaking point that pushes the evil forces into battle ill-prepared and overconfident.

Raicht and Smith deliver a story that grabs your attention, slaps it around a little, and then lets go. This story is smartly paced, offering new readers a chance to jump in and catch up along the way. All of the answers are not delivered on a platter for readers checking out the "Stuff of Legend" for the first time, but the new readers will find this story just as gripping as returning readers do. There's no quick and easy fix here. The issue doesn't deliver a happy ending, but I honestly did not want it to. At this point, Raicht, Smith, and Wilson have one of the most amazing books on the comic stands for us. As long as the story doesn't finish, that means there will be more of this great tale, right?

The most dreadful part of this book is the next issue blurb: "Coming in September 2010." Really? I have to wait nearly two months for more amazing adventures of the most unlikely band of characters?

At first blush, readers may see this as a contrived regurgitation of "Toy Story," but nothing could be further from the truth. "Toy Story" is a buddy tale, between Buzz and Woody. "The Stuff of Legend" is about being devoted to a cause, having a purpose, and working towards that purpose. The toys here are determined to find their master and return him to where he belongs -- with them. I hope they do it, and I have no doubt the adventures along the way are going to be stellar.

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