Author: Mike Raicht and Brian Smith
Artist: Charles Paul Wilson III
Del Rey/Th3rd World Studios
Unsuccessful in their quest thus far, the band of heroic toys travel farther behind enemy lines in search of their human master. There they uncover the true history of the mysterious closet realm known as the Dark in the bombed out husk of a ruined Zoo. Battle weary and vastly outnumbered by the armies of the cunning Boogeyman, Maxwell the teddy bear and Percy the piggy bank lead their troops into the savage wilds of the Jungle in search of sanctuary. (Source: Goodreads)
I reviewed the first book of the Stuff of Legend graphic novel series ages ago, always intending to return to this stellar series. That was over a year ago. Whoops? Nevertheless, I have returned to this strange dark world of war and toys, and I find myself loving it even more now than before. If you thought Max and the other toys were in trouble before, you haven't seen anything yet.
In this volume, loyalties are tested and broken, new enemies emerge, and the boy gets into his own trouble. We also see more of the Boogeyman's army and the viciousness that happens among his ranks in the name of earning his favor. Despite being toys, there are no static individuals here. Everyone has a story, a set of aspirations, adding further depth to the overall story. The dramatically inked artwork, with its striking use of shadows and sepia, sets Stuff of Legend apart from its fellow comics.
My favorite character at this point is the Jester. He has a dark dry sense of humor, can be quite vicious on the battlefield, and is hopelessly devoted to the Princess. However, he never loses sight of who he is and is constantly reminding us, the reader, that he is not a nice person or deserving of our affection. It's quite sad, really, but this is how Jester sees himself: someone who cannot be loved. I also feel for Harmony, who is burdened with the rifle of a past comrade but cannot bring herself to use it. She is obviously not a fighter but has been thrown into a situation where she will have to fight, if she wishes to live.
The more I read of The Stuff of Legends, the more I wish to learn about this odd world and how it functions. Fans of series like Mushishi and XXXHOLiC and Pet Shop of Horrors - where everything is not what it seems - should definitely give Raicht and Smith's series a try. And then maybe be a bit wary of how you treat your action figures and plushies.