Monday, September 22, 2014

Review - Torsobear Volume One: Yarns from Toyburg

"Teddies..." Hazbrow says. "Huh, you soft sacks ain't cut out for this kind o' work."

Life among toys should be sunshine and rainbows. It should be joyful on a daily basis, with toys excited to play with kids and vice versa. There shouldn't be criminal issues amongst the toys, but like any other civilization, crime has a way of rearing its head. Recounting those stories and giving voice to the aggrieved is what Torsobear Volume One: Yarns from Toyburg aims to do.

Torsobear Volume One: Yarns from Toyburg is broken into a slew of short stories. These include "Clean Heart, Dirty Paws," written and illustrated by Brett Uren, "Dress to Impress," written by Frank Martin, illustrated by Giles Crawford and colored/lettered by Jon Scrivens, "Rich Toy, Poor Toy," written by Grainne McEntee, illustrated by Matt Rooke and lettered by Uren, "Some Assembly Required," written by Cy Dethan, illustrated by Peter Mason and lettered by Nic Wilkinson, "She Sang for Buttons, She Unstitched My Heart," written and illustrated by Uren, colored by Harold Saxon and lettered by Mick Schubert, "The Collector," written by Glenn Moane, illustrated by Carlos Nick Zumuido, colored by Brian Traynor and lettered by Scrivens, "A New Hopeleness," written and illustrated by Kieran Squires and colored by Faye Harmon, "The Big Wind Up," written by Janos Honkonen, illustrated by Saoirse Louise Towler and lettered by Schubert, "Home Invasion," written by Brockton McKinney and Uren, illustrated by Uren and colored by Harold Saxon, "Sour in the Sweet," written by Jack Young, illustrated by Randy Haldeman, colored by Uren and lettered by Shawn Aldridge, "Blockheads," written and illustrated by Scrivens and "We All Fall Down, Playing It the Hard Way," written and illustrated by Uren.

To say that toys have lives of their own is probably a big understatement. In fact, it's wholly possible that they have an entire civilization kept under wraps when under the prying eyes (and hands) of jubilant children, running to and fro. If we were able to see a bit deeper into their society though, chances are they would have to contend many of the same fears and social issues that we as humans have to deal with. Peeling back the layers of those tales would definitely make for interesting ready, which is exactly what Torsobear Volume One: Yarns from Toyburg attempts to do.

Torsobear Volume One: Yarns from Toyburg is an anthology for sure, but all the varying creators manage to make their tales feel as if they inhabit the same universe. That's a very difficult feat for an anthology, but it's a testament to the talent of all involved that Torsobear Volume One: Yarns from Toyburg doesn't feel extraordinarily disjointed. Instead, it feels as if you're taking the tour of a city that has its ups and downs, its highs and lows; much like just about any other major metropolitan area. And these stores tackle many serious issues, most of which surround either criminals and their motivations or the police and their devotion to the job. It's a very heady confluence of good and evil told through the guise of toys, which allows the writers to capitalize on certain stereotypes to get across a broader social message. Those stereotypes manifest themselves in the way of familiarity with the toys included in the tales.

Artistically, there's a solid variety of art. Again though--like the writing--the difference between art in one story and the next isn't so disparate that the book feels like an anthology. It really does help the reader get into the mindset that they're be given a tour of a very dysfunctional city. The artists match up very well with their respective stories, bringing the right style to convey the appropriate tone of the individual story. If there's one minor gripe about the artwork overall, it has to do with the lettering. All dialogue and narration are offered in boxes, with no dialogue bubbles. In this regard, Torsobear Volume One: Yarns from Toyburg feels more like you're being shown the tales of Toyburg from high above, rather than really being brought into the action to "experience" it firsthand.

Torsobear Volume One: Yarns from Toyburg is a very intriguing anthology of stories that takes rather familiar tales of crime and justice and spins them by involving toys. It's a concept that doesn't feel like it should work, but all the creators do a great job of making the stories feel natural. All the stories have a few layers to them that have the characters tackling rather mature issues, even though the toys themselves are often perceived as a lot more jovial due to public perception. The artwork is varied enough to make each story feel unique, but not varied enough to make the book feel like a haphazard collection of tales. Torsobear Volume One: Yarns from Toyburg is a fascinating investigation into the rather seedy underbelly of street crime through the eyes of what are seemingly the most innocent eyes possible in toys.

Torsobear Volume One: Yarns from Toyburg is available now.


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