By StÃ©phane Blanquet, translated by Kim Thompson (Fantagraphics Books)
Win’s Christmas Gift Recommendation: Perfect for bold kids and timid parentsâ€¦ Â 8/10
It’s a bumper time if you have kids who love the grimmer side of storytelling. This thematic companion volume to The Littlest Pirate King is another superb slice of macabre all-ages Euro-whimsy, courtesy of the wildly talented and incredibly prolific StÃ©phane Blanquet (more than 25 graphic novels and books published since 1994 including Dungeon: Monstres volume 2, Kramer’s Ergot, and Zero Zero).
Do you remember the heart-wrenching scene in the 1964 stop-motion television classic Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer when he finds the Island of Misfit toys? Do you recall how all they wanted was children to love them? Hold on to that thoughtâ€¦
At a Halloween fancy-dress party a disgruntled little boy is sulking. In his heart he’s a vicious pirate king, but his cheapskate mother would only pay for a pink bunny costume nobody else wantedâ€¦ As the other kids tease and bully him he retreats to a corner where he meets a geeky kid in a chicken suit.
Poultry boy has a broken leg and a raging thirst, but his friend, a girl in a kitten outfit, has been down in cellar fetching drinks for ages. After some pleading, Pink Bunny, keen to avoid further embarrassment, or be seen with a nerd dressed like a chicken, goes after her.
At the bottom of the stairs he finds her paralysed with fear: the basement is filled with maimed and broken toys, alive, angry and determined to wreak bloody vengeance on the cruel children who maltreated and abandoned them. Luckily, because of their stupid outfits the toys assume the kids too are dolls, because they were real childrenâ€¦
Playing for time, Catgirl and Bunnyboy follow the maladjusted playthings to a vast underground cavern where all broken toys are massing, readying for the day they will rise and take over. The children gasp in horror at the artificial army’s secret weapon – a gigantic ravenous Frankensteinian beast named Amelia, cobbled together from thousands of discarded toy fragments, all hungry for righteous slaughterâ€¦
It’s at that moment Chicken-boy stumbles upon them and blows their coverâ€¦
Dosed with dry, mordant wit and just the right tone of macabre Ghost Train suspense Toys in the Basement is a simply terrific goose-bumpy thriller rendered magical by the wildly eccentric, brilliantly imaginative and creepily fluid artwork of Blanquet. This dark delight also has the perfect moral message for loot-hungry, attention-deprived youngsters – and their kids and grandchildren too.
Â© 2005 Editions La Joie de Lire SA. This edition Â© 2010 Fantagraphics Books. All rights reserved.