Imagine Frank Miller’s Sin City. Make your main character Teddy Ruxpin. Make Barbie’s Ken a chilling sociopath. Throw in the toys you remember so fondly from your childhood. Have them pray to the Maker, Gepetto, for guidance. Have him constantly deny it. Now, color it with all the crayons from a third grader’s school box . . . That’s the barest inkling of the cruel delights that await you in this incredible volume.
Originally introduced in the Outre anthology, the initial story (included here as Chapter 1) followed Ruxby and Hazbrow as they investigated a Black Dahlia-style murder but barely scratched the surface of what was possible in this violent, beautiful merging of genres.
Calling his blended genre ”Fuzzy Noir,” creator Brett Uren has taken the most familiar tenets of noir and infused it into the saccharine-sweet world of children’s toys. Here, your teddy bear suffers from existential angst. Abandoned by his songbird wife, left to care for his bastard child, and confronted with evils he’s never dreamed possible, Ruxby’s descent into darkness happens against brighter and cheerier backdrops with every dark revelation. Imagine if Max Fleischer or Merrie Melodies illustrated the old Black Mask anthologies. On a five-day drug bender.
But, far from being either juvenile or gratuitous, Uren approaches his world with an incredible respect to both source genres. From broken-down soldiers making a living to singers trying to break out, to broken-down (wooden) cops trying to make a difference, each of the characters could have stepped out of the pages of a vintage noir novel. Raymond Chandler by way of FAO Schwartz. Toys ‘R Us meets Se7en. And, Uren manages to make each of them three-dimensional and real to the reader, full of equal parts cheer and fear. Even with his sewn-on smile, Ruxby’s repulsion to his first torso is evident, and his deep affection for his raggedy love-child shows in the desperate risks he takes to ensure his safety.
The contributing writers and artists in this volume carry that torch well, obviously relishing being allowed to share in Uren’s toybox (Yeah, I went there!) and only serve to flesh out this incredibly detailed and chillingly plush world with side tales that illuminate this dark world he’s created. If you’re a fan of noir, you won’t be disappointed by the rich banquet of dark delicacies this brilliant and disturbing volume serves up. It’s possibly one of the best, new anthologies of the year . . .
“I always believed in you, Gepetto,” Ruxby Bear thought. “You, the Great Toymaker, that looked after us playthings. Made sure we walked the path . . . did right by each other and spread happiness wherever we went in the world.”
“Now, after what I’ve heard and seen today . . . things I could never have believed toys could do or say to our own . . . ”
“I have just realized you were never there at all . . . ”
VERDICT: FIVE Bitter RockemSockem Robots out of FIVE
*More information regarding Torsobear may be found here.