Archive for April, 2012

Click on the above image to be taken to the ComiXology webpage for this comic. The first issue is FREE!

In my meanderings around ComiXology lately, I came across this series by Th3rd World Studios. As with many things, I was hooked first and foremost by the fact that it was 1) highly rated; and 2) free. Well, the first issue at any rate. I’d recommend that you go read it, too, because you won’t be disappointed.

The year is 1944. A man — like so many men — is off fighting WWII. Back home, his wife cares for his two young sons. One night, the elder son is taken away by the Boogeyman. Some of his toys — as well as his little puppy — decide to go into the Dark to find and retrieve him. It’s a cute plot so far, right? Sure. It’s like Alice in Wonderland meets Toy Story. Only…it’s NOT.

There are different striations of toys: favorite, prior favorite, forgotten, broken, common. Each of these have entirely different beliefs about their place in life as well as their relation to the Boy. Some aren’t vested enough to join the quest; others were handed down to the younger son and state that their duty lies with their new Boy. This swiftly-established rationale pervades throughout the story once the chosen toys enter the Dark. What is “worth it” to them? What do they feel about the Boy? This comic is amazingly cerebral and incredibly brutal despite the cute premise. While the Boy’s father fighting in Normandy, the toys undergo a rescue mission into enemy territory, fighting against armies of the Dark: the forgotten toys, the broken toys of all the children, each twisted because of their abandonment, finding new meaning in the Dark in the service of the Boogeyman.

When the toys enter the Dark, they assume new fleshy forms that are equivalent to their original toy bodies: the toy soldier becomes a real soldier; the teddy turns into a giant grizzly; and so on. So, too, do all the cast out toys already in the Dark have their own forms that are based on what they once were.

The starting cast includes:

Scout: The Boy’s young puppy. Scout, being a loyal dog, naturally opts to search for the Boy.

The Colonel: The fearless toy soldier who rallies the toys into the Dark. He is very much what the Boy idealized after his father left for war, and so is one of the Boy’s favorite toys.

Maxwell (Max): The teddy bear who was the Boy’s prior favorite until the arrival of Scout. Max is short-tempered and violent and hates Scout passionately.

The Princess: An Indian princess figurine who has been separated from her tribe. She is reserved and stately, but is fearless and skilled in combat.

Harmony: The ballerina figurine who has watched over the Boy from the toy shelf longer than any of the others. She does not have the heart of a fighter, instead being very motherly. She refers to the other toys as her family.

Percival (Percy): The cowardly but very intelligent piggy bank, drafted unwillingly by the Colonel. He is steadfastly against the voyage into the Dark and feels no loyalties to the Boy, who will intentionally break him sooner or later in order to extract the money he guards.

Quackers: The wooden tug duck with a loud mouth and little tact, who flies reconnaissance. He goes into the Dark because his friends are going, and in particular is close to Max.

Jester: The jack-in-the-box from England, who wears his heart on his sleeve. He has fallen in love with the Princess and worries after her. He feels as much loyalty to her as he does to the Boy.

Boogeyman: Very much like Lucifer, he is a deceiver who is always plotting and bends others’ wills to his own. He is the ruler of the Dark and has stolen the Boy, presumably to corrupt and break him. He is depicted in a truly terrifying fashion and is an effective villain.

Loyalty, trust, and courage: these are tested for each toy. The story itself is wrought with betrayal, death, trials and tribulations. It is a very serious and well thought out handling of an initially lighthearted premise. I was excited for each new issue, and even now am eager to read more. The artwork is gorgeous graphite with soft shading on sepia, and as such the entire comic has a nostalgic feel to it. This works well with the fantastic vintage attitude of the piece.

Will they save the Boy from the clutches of the Boogeyman? Only time will tell, as this series is still a work in progress. Currently there are three volumes available with a fourth being released this summer. I’d highly recommend this series as it only improves with each new book.

Click on either of the above to see these issues on Comixology.

Let me first prepend my review of these two issues by stating that I am an on again, off again comic reader. I have not ever religiously read any particular series; I read them when I think to get them, and although I do tend to consistently gravitate towards Batman and his allies/enemies, I will also read anything else that catches my eye regardless of series, publisher, origin country, and so on. These two issues of Suicide Squad are the first I’ve read from that particular series.

WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD

The premise of this story arc is that someone killed (and skinned) the Joker while Harley was in Belle Reve Penitentiary and acting as part of the Suicide Squad, which is a team of supervillain death row inmates who are allegedly working off their sentence via performing high-risk black ops missions for the government. Harley finds out about the Joker’s death and goes on a killing spree in an issue prior to the two I’m reviewing (but of course this information is recapped in the issues in question). As issue #6: The Hunt for Harley Quinn begins, the remainder of the Squad is attempting to track her down.

A sizeable chunk (but of course not the entire issue as this is Suicide Squad, not Harley Quinn) recounts the tale of Harley’s life prior to meeting the Joker: she was a psychiatrist at Arkham Asylum who was assigned to work with the Joker. She’d been a “good girl” all her life up to that point, but her way of approaching the Joker – challenging him fearlessly, and quite aware of what he might try to pull – intrigued him enough that he decided to lure her in instead of killing her. The rest of the issue focuses on some of the other members of the Squad, particularly the two squabbling male leads, Deadshot (the leader) and Savant (the challenger) as they seek out Harley.

Issue #7: The Origin of Harley Quinn continues the story, with Harley-of-the-present breaking into the police department to retrieve the remains of the Joker – his face, which was skinned off – and the rest of the Squad creating a distraction and sneaking into the building to catch her. The rest of her origin story is related, with Harleen (Harley-of-the-past) meeting with her superior, whom she finds out has been stealing her research on the Joker for a book she is writing to make herself famous, and due to the Joker’s persuasive influence she just snaps and nearly kills the woman. Directly thereafter she breaks the Joker out of the Asylum, and he takes her to the place he was “born” and tosses her into a vat. When she emerges, she’s lost all compunctions and has special half-and-half hair and decides she needs to make out with the Joker.

Back in present day, Harley traps Savant in a cell with his foot on a pressure-sensitive mine (if he moves, he blows up) and while he’s dealing with that, she also captures Deadshot and ties him to a chair. In perhaps the more interesting segment, she takes the Joker’s face and places it over Deadshot’s, talking to him as if he is the Joker. While she’s in her weird delusional monologue about how the Joker is still alive she decides to kiss him, at which point he shoots her, thus finding her recaptured. (Although I am not covering issue #8 as it isn’t really related to Harley, you find out that she is still alive despite the stomach wound and returned to the team again.)

I must say that although I bought these two issues because I wanted to read about what happened between her and the Joker, I was more entertained with the testosterone-fueled exchanges between Deadshot and Savant. The problem I had with the Harley/Joker exchanges was that although it was a good idea, the events were so briefly touched upon that it wasn’t nearly as effective as it could have been. Neither character really shined in all their crowning glory, and the changes in Harleen which made her into Harley were barely shown. I’d have liked it better if it were a stand-alone series of a few issues, but as this was written in the midst of Suicide Squad it involved too many goings-on and too many characters in too few pages. It would have worked even within the larger context of the present events, had the mini story arc been a couple of issues longer. As it stands, it is mildly amusing and fun but nothing spectacular. It almost tempts me to take the ideas presented and run with them, drawing up my own spin on the events between the two in a fan comic. Almost, but not quite.