John Wiswell's Reviews > The Stuff of Legend, Book 1: The Dark

The Stuff of Legend, Book 1 by Mike Raicht
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's review
Jan 24, 2012

really liked it
Read in January, 2012

A fabulous work of imagination. The Stuff of Legend owes its debt to Pixar's Toy Story, but swiftly accomplishes its own fiction. Here "The Boy" is kidnapped by the Boogeyman, physically dragged into his closet and held in a fantasy world called The Dark. His toys and pet dog descend into this Dark, where they change from little lumps of plastic into highly stylized images of themselves, fighting through the Boogeyman's army of corrupt toys in pursuit of their owner. We visit a city built on top of a board game, with laws derived from the old game's rules and is getting people jailed and executed. These things could easily be goofy, but played as earnest make a valid interpretation on the "world of toys" trope. In the first chapter we watch one of our heroes betrayed and ripped in half, dying and leaving the surviving toys with an emotional burden they mourn.

Much of this works because of the team's excellent artwork. Illustrated by Charles Paul Wilson the 3rd, and designed and colored by Jon Conkling and Michael DeVito, the book uses a sepia color scheme that leaves The Dark feeling like the shadowier and umcomfortable parts of Walt Disney's worlds. Everything is competent, for conveying action, or suggesting emotion through a face that has few features, but the book excels in its subtler details. The Colonel, one of the green army man toys, ends a scene by striding off to search for a safe place to hunker down. The next panel begins a flashback to The Boy's room, where we realize the pose The Colonel had assumed during his search is actually the one he was molded into as a static toy. Touches like this are both funny and tease the brain as to the nature of this series' fiction.

The Stuff of Legend is a solid adventure story, but the most fun is found in puzzling out the real nature of the fantasy. Is this all one of The Boy's games, and he's pitting his entire toy chest against each other in his room? It's never mentioned, and character-specific flashbacks to his treatment of them go against the theory. But if it isn't, why is The Dark in his closet magical, and what determines the idealized nature of the toys? And why aren't more children abducted like this? Did his fantasy-projections from years of playing with help establish their personalities? Under what theory does it make sense that a baseball-player toy lost interest in sports and now lives as a violent goon? If you're like me, you'll pick up the next book foremost hoping this gets explained.
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