160 Jay’s Favorites of 2010: The Stuff Of Legend
So, it’s my intention to write ten reviews in ten days for the end of the year best of list. Which is absolutely not daunting to any living soul other than myself. Mostly because I am lazy, but also, it was a terrible year for comics. 2010 had its moments, but they were few and far between. In fact, I think in other years it would be hard to narrow down to a best of ten. This year? I’m lucky I got ten. Lucky me.
But that’s no reason to disparage the comics made that were actually good. In fact, it almost makes it imperative that I write this best of: you need to know. And if not me, than who? You? Highly unlikely. First of all, you would have to have a command of the English language, that quite frankly, I don’t believe you possess. And secondly, how could you possibly know what my choices for the top ten are? You could speculate at best. But that’s not what you do. That isn’t what our relationship is like. I give, you take. I accept this.
Also, just for the record, I’m writing ten reviews in ten days, but they’re not in order of least to best. Nope– not what I do. These are just my ten favorite, period. Also, the more I think of it, it might be like the top six or seven. I told Paul my top ten list, and he pointed out that three of them came out the year before. I don’t feel like bumping up the honorable mentions to bonafide hits.
OK, let’s begin.
OK, first off, full disclosure: I know Mike Raicht. He frequents the shop I worked at, and I have had a good handful of conversations with him, and where as I get along with him and think he’s incredibly talented, I wanted to state under no circumstances is The Stuff of Legend on my top ten list because of this. It stands on its own merit. A wider audience should read this ongoing work. This is my intent.
The Stuff of Legend takes place in 1944, dead smack during WWII, which makes the story itself a parable of what happens within the book.
The main premise is: you know when you’re young and afraid of the boogy man in your closet? We’ll you should be, because he’s real, and for reasons yet unrevealed he has abducted a young child from his bedroom through his closet into a hidden world that would feel comfortable residing in Terry Gilliam’s imagination easily.
The abduction happens via black tendrils that slither out and drag him into the dark of the closet, the beginning of this book plays out like a horror film that turns not quite into a fantasy book as much as a weird war book.
After the abduction the child’s toys become animated with life and have a brief discussion among themselves as to go on a rescue mission to save the child from the land in the closet, and the Boogy Man of whom they are all familiar.
This is the beginning of the book, and I’ve heard people detract from it, comparing it to Disney’s Toy Story franchise in a not-so-good way. Well first off, toys having self-awareness and moving is literally the only similarity between the two stories. Once the toys go into the closet, within the first issue, they are no longer toys; they take on flesh and blood anthropomorphized personas. The piggy bank becomes a pig, the teddy bear a bear (the talking kind, with personalities– the best kind) and toy soldiers and ballerinas become just soldiers and ballerinas and so on and so on.
I find many comic readers perception of what is a rip off fluid at best. They tend not to mind when you have twenty variations of Batman running around, but the idea of more than one story with talking toys in the age where a hit movie about some exists? Inexcusable.
Seeing as toys being self aware and physically animated is nothing new in literature, by the logic above most people should blow off Disney’s films as well because they weren’t the first in a long run. I mean, in Tchaikovsky’s The Nutcracker a prince is turned into a toy (the reverse of what’s happening here) was penned in the 1890’s. The Velveteen Rabbit ~ or~ How Toys Become Real was written by Margery William in 1922. And if you don’t want to go that far back Calvin and Hobbes was created in the 1980’s.
So now that the story has begun, what I found so engaging about The Stuff of Legend is its ability to throw curveballs into the mix. The toys, now not toys, are behind enemy lines. Not only that, but the lines are drawn up into warring factions and roaming untamed terrors (dinosaur sized mud golems that roam in packs and destroy all living and standing structures) but they have to deal with Shakespearian style betrayals that feel natural to the story (‘why should I risk my life for this kid? He will eventually destroy me.’). Also, there’s a budding romance story, which is surprisingly touching under the danger and pressure the rescue team is under.
But what really, really stands out is the characterization.
Within the first book, the leader of the team, the brave hero character, completely fucks up and gets himself killed. This shock was great. It would be if you cast an army movie with Brad Pitt, Danny Pudi and Donald Glover and they went off
to kill Hitler, because seriously, fuck Hitler. And in the first twenty minutes Brad Pitt got his head shot off, and now it was up to the other guys to finish the job.
This is exactly what happens in this book. The not so brave ones and the strong but not so smart ones are left leaderless with an almost impossible job to do. It’s great seeing who falls into what roles, who has to become even braver than they thought, who needs to chill out, and who has to sacrifice. It goes from bad to worse: they lose allies, they get separated, beaten and bruised. This story has casualties. People you like get hurt and killed.
And it’s only like half way through.
I tend to skip over art when reviewing comics, mostly because I’m usually more interested in story beats, narrative and dialogue; but it should be noted that Charles Paul Wilson III is something to behold. His figures, even the bizarrely shaped ones, all look anatomically correct, in that I mean when they get hit or hurt, you can almost see how they would slosh around the insides. Also, his expressions are wonderful. I am sincerely sick of comic artists who draw all bodies more or less the same with the exact same nose, lips and eyes for everyone. When someone goes out of their way to make sure everyone has a distinct look– to bit players in the background. I love that stuff.
I think when this is eventually collected into one giant book people are going to keep going back to it. It has that cross over appeal to people who don’t really read that many mainstream comics, and because of the twists and turns it makes for a surprising read even among the comics it’s similar in vein to. People will catch on and keep recommending it to others.
I’m just recommending it to you now.
- I’m totally not going to write a review a day.
- Instead of cluing you in to what I listened to while writing, here is a list of movies I saw in a theatre last year in the order I saw them. It’s not all the movies I watched, but if I sat in front of a screen with an audience, it goes on the list. And yes some of the movies are old– people still show them. Why show the list? Dunno. Just trying to give you more bang for your buck, maybe? Also, I’m weird.
3.The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus
8.Hot Tub Time Machine
15.Best Worst Movie
20.Scott Pilgrim Vs The World
21.Survival Of The Dead
22. •Rec 2
23.The Other Guys
25. Piranha 3D
26. Piranha 3D
27.Going The Distance
31. Death Wish 3
32. Vice Squad
34.Silent Night, Deadly Night