Having been a kid during the ’90s, Toy Story is up there with Power Rangers and Pokemon as an integral part of my childhood, and my love for the series has only been heightened by the latest film. In that spirit, I couldn’t resist taking a look at the latest installment of the Toy Story comic book series.

Toy Story #5
Writer: Jesse Blaze Snider
Art: Tanya Roberts
Colours: Mike Cossin
Letters: Troy Peteri
Editors: Aaron Sparrow & Christopher Meyer
Covers: Nate Watson
Publisher: BOOM Kids!

The book contains a, ‘Previously, on…’ section and, as I haven’t read the previous issues, I’ll relay it here.

Previously, on Toy Story: ‘The toys of Andy’s room are embroiled in a test of strength, and the winner will receive a kiss from Bo Peep! Woody had better win, too… if he doesn’t, he risks losing Bo Peep altogether! But things don’t look good for him when the “Flight” event really sends him flying – right out the window!’

A Failed Challenge

In case you’ve never seen Toy Story, the premise is that toys come alive when humans aren’t around, and the series focuses on a group of toys belonging to one kid: Andy. Anyway, the issue opens as Woody’s flying attempt (jumping out the window clutching a toy plane) ends with him crashing into a mail box, and he barely makes it into the next round of the competition. Woody then exposits about how the competition isn’t really about him and Bo Peep, but rather about him proving that he can be the action hero Andy thinks he is. The second round happens and Woody looses but Bo gives him a kiss anyway because she loves him regardless. The issue ends with a page that sets up the plot for next time.

As you might expect from a kids’ book, this issue has a rather simplistic story, but that is something that really troubles me: the wonderful thing about Toy Story, or indeed any Disney/Pixar film, is that they’re truly enjoyable for all the family and an adult can get just as much entertainment from them as a child can. I was hoping that this spirit could be transferred over to the comic book, and that I might be able to experience some enjoyment without looking at the book in the light of it being made for children; unfortunately, however, this was not the case. One could say that my expectations are perhaps slightly too high, demanding that a twenty two page book attempt to match a series of 90-minute-odd films, but I’m not expecting that the book match the films, only attempt to retain that spirit of entertainment-for-all.

However, whilst the plot is almost entirely straightforward, it is remarkable that we do get some attempt at character development for Woody. I’m not sure when exactly this series is set in terms of continuity, but it’s nice to see the idea of Woody grappling with his need to live up to Andy’s expectations, perhaps at a time when Andy is growing out of those childish expectations. It is unfortunate, then, that we do not get to see how Woody copes with failing at the challenge – instead, he is satisfied with the affection of Bo Peep even though he explained earlier that that was not his real motivation. An opportunity was lost here, I think, to provide intelligent development for a character, but the initial attempt is never followed up and the whole thing is apparently swept aside.

For young kids (and I am thinking six and under, here), though, this book will likely provide some entertainment if they enjoy the films. The dialogue is fine, and the characters are all recognisable, although I’m not sure how easy it would be to differentiate the characters by their dialogue if one had not seen the films. Still, if your kid just can’t get enough of Toy Story at the moment, then this wouldn’t be a bad purchase.

A Questionable Cover

The art is bright and colourful, as one might expect, and I really do enjoy it when art is vibrant like this. All the characters are rendered well (although I will say that Rex looks more stuffed than plastic at times, but then again I suppose it’s very difficult to try and make someone look rigid in sequential art), and it’s usually enjoyable to see them come to life in any form. Everything also flows very well, which is important considering the book is mostly action. I also really liked the panel layout, it’s difficult to describe but throughout the whole book the panels looked really crisp and sleek; it’s a rare moment when I’d say that the actual panels contributed to my enjoyment of a book, so it’s very much worth a mention when they do.

Cover A has its ups and downs: it features the five competitors for Bo Peep’s affections (and also Hamm, who does not compete in the second challenge but who was put in there presumably because they needed someone to occupy the sixth position) in boxes, with Bo Peep in the middle. The content of the cover is fine, even good, but the background is just awful. It’s some vile patterned red thing that contrasts with the blue background of the boxes so as to actually make me feel nauseous. It’s hard to imagine a worse colour they could have picked for this background – it looks like some horribly cheap carpet and quite simply makes my eyes hurt. Cover B is much better, in fact featuring three panels of woody putting on his Sheriff’s badge and looking determined. It’s eye-catching, provokes interest and really highlights that this is Woody’s story – something that would have been more effective if the aforementioned character development actually came to fruition.

BOTTOM LINE: For Kids Only

So, to sum up, don’t expect to get the kind of entertainment from this book that you’d get from the films. It’s got some nice art but nothing more to persuade an adult to pick it up, and this is really disappointing as they attempt to include some complexity in the story but abandon it for no apparent reason. If you’ve got a young kid, however, then this might make a decent purchase if they’re Toy Story fans. With this in mind, I award this book two stars out of five, because it’s not a bad book, and would have got two and a half if one of the covers hadn’t left me feeling queasy.

Rating: ★★☆☆☆

The Author

Scott Hunter

Scott Hunter

He spells 'colour' with a 'u' and has the Queen on his money, but Scott Hunter loves pop culture all the same. His first memories of comics are of going down to the local corner shop to buy issues of The Beano and watching the 90s X-Men and Spider-man cartoons. He only recently started reading and collecting comics regularly, but has plunged himself heart and soul into the hobby, bagging and boarding with the best of them. Outside of comics, he enjoys sci-fi (reading, writing and watching), good-bad horror films playing with a brass band. Favourite writers include John Wagner, Alan Moore, Mark Waid, Alan Grant and (in non-comics literature) Philip K. Dick and H.P. Lovecraft. Colin MacNeil, Carlos Ezquerra, Brian Bolland and Alex Ross rank among his favourite artists.

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2 Comments

  1. August 4, 2010 at 8:22 pm — Reply

    The cover may be ugly, but it really pops on the newsstand, which I suspect was their intention.

    • Damascus
      September 7, 2010 at 12:41 am — Reply

      I don’t care for the red cover, but I can completely understand what you mean about it popping on the newstand. Parents will be more likely to buy a comic if the kid actually sees it amongst the other magazines and then proceeds to cry and whine about it until said parent relents just to quell the storm (I have a 2-year-old, I can relate). However, I do actually quite like the brown cover. It makes me think of one of those cartoon moments where you start the movie out on a close-up and it’s looking like it’s high noon and something’s about to go down and then they pull back and you see Andy playing with his toys and Woody’s trying to take down Evil Doctor Porkchop. It just in three images conveys that (for Rodrigo) trope of Western films of the hat over the eyes and the gleaming badge (yes, yes, we don’ need no stinkin batches). Either way, I probably won’t pick the title up, it seems geared to a younger age and my 2-year-old would just tear it up. I love Toy Story, but like the reviewer, it would be nice if it had that deeper connection with the adult reader too.

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