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.