Overview

Still Playing with Toys Presents #2

Review

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Still Playing with Toys Presents #2

Credits

  • Words: Troy Benjamin
  • Art: Chris Enterline
  • Inks: Chris Enterline
  • Colors: Rob Smith
  • Story Title: Only in Dreams/Angel XRC
  • Publisher: Still Playing with Toys
  • Price: FREE

What is it that stops readers from picking up an independent comic over any Marvel or DC book?  There’s the lack of accessibility, especially inside comic shops, a too-difficult preorder system via Diamond or, worse, a nearly impossible to know-of or keep track-of alternate ordering system if Diamond won’t carry it.  Even more discouraging: money.  Independent comics are, at best, just as pricey (and usually more so) than anything mainstream, and mainstream comics ain’t cheap, but at least the mainstream books have childhood loyalty and proper publicity campaigns behind them.  So, if fundamentally it’s space and financing that are the primary problems, how to solve them?

The folks at Still Playing with Toys have got it figured: hot on the heels of such revolutionary new small press publishing set-ups as the trail-blazing Wowio, president Troy Benjamin is now offering every issue of Still Playing with Toys Presents for 100% FREE download, straight from the comic’s website.  It comes in easily accessible .PDF format, and now hardly anyone has to worry about being unable to find the book or having to pay more than they can rightly afford.

Space and money, check and check, but is it worth the time?  My mini review for issue #1 certainly claimed that the first issue was, but does #2 remain strong, keep the trend alive?  Now halfway through the four-issue series, are things as exciting as they seemed promised to be?

In matter of fact, SPwTP #2 is a sweet improvement on #1, which is probably the best thing that can be said for any freshman effort of a fledgling company.  The art in general is crisper, cleaner, and now fully colored by Rob Smith (leaving poor, overworked Chris Enterline to focus solely on his pencils and inks).  It’s prettier and more polished than what’s come before, and issue #1 was pretty damn pretty (it’s prettiness being what caught my eye in the first place, in fact), so that’s a big fat plus.  Both stories gear up in their respective ways, “Only in Dreams” growing complicated while “Angel XRC” pushes its own action threshold into overdrive.

“Dreams” follows a successful college experiment invested with sending a group of kids into other people’s dreams, though the repercussions of doing so may be more involved than originally suspected.  Word soon spreads of the experiment, and more volunteers than can be handled quickly arrive, all wanting their nightmares checked and tampered with, cleaned, fixed, so a good night’s rest is only another snooze away.  Writer Troy Benjamin churns out some fun and all-ages dreamscapes, though the story’s greatest merit lies in the unspoken, insidious consequences of dream-walking, the conflict between exploration of the unknown and lack of honest understanding (‘s why it’s called “the unknown”, I suppose).  The characters are likable, the story well-paced and the art by Enterline and Smith mirroring the smooth animation quality of Lions, Tigers, and Bears’ auteur Mike Bullock.  It’s not mired in any sort of realism (people would really be okay with others crawling around their dreams?  Really?), but if you can buy the conceit, the rest is candy for the eyes and the mind.

“Angel XRC” is a vastly different kind of beast, a sci-fi cyber-punk noir with a heavy amount of over-the-top action and little else besides.  It follows a resistance fighter named Axebry, a man framed for the assassination of the president of his futuristic world, and framed by the president’s right-hand man, no less!  Now Axebry is on the run, confronted on all sides by lots and lots of bad guys, most notably a giant-sized cyborg warrior.  The lion’s share of this installment concerns itself with Axebry and the 'borg duking it out in the streets, racking up some serious collateral damage.  Enterline lets himself be fluid with the art here, a little more Pat Lee-ish, capturing a similar feel to what Darkminds once wielded.  Smith’s colors suit the scene as well, turn muted, with grays, silvers, and blues abounding.

Yet another gorgeous read, Still Playing With Toys Presents #2 proves that Benjamin, Enterline, and Smith have got what it takes to create some really cool comics.  They’re just warming up, and with no money down and no effort to download, there’s simply no reason not to head over to www.stillplayingwithtoys.com to sample their wares.  Every book of the series from here on in is free, free, free, and no one’s going to find a better price than that, so it’s elementary to stick around for the finish line on this one.  Here’s to two more issues that keep upping the ante and surpassing their predecessors!

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