Just over a year ago, our good friend Brett Uren produced a graphic novel that I fell rather completely in love with. The gorgeously subversive Torsobear: Yarns from Toyburg had me at the very first yarn. I’ve got Yarns from Toyburg at my side as I write this review, open at “We All Fall Down, Playing the Hard Way”, the anthology’s final and most gripping story that sees our hero, Detective Ruxby Bear, forced to make a painful decision between justice and survival. Reading that short story again sends me leafing through all the over short stories in this wonderful anthology, through all the deceptively gentle stories of Ruxby, Officer Hazbrow, and the citizens of Toyburg, all of whom paint a finely crafted saga of the darker side of justice.
I’ve also got this second volume, All Stitched Up open in front of me as well, and as I finished reading it recently, I sat there, scratching my head, almost waiting for some delayed reaction of shock or surprise at All Stitched Up‘s deadlier take on the twisted world we first saw in Yarns from Toyburg. Perhaps the honest answer is that All Stitched Up is a far tougher read than Yarns from Toyburg. Vaguer, darker, and at time far more gruesome than Yarns from Toyburg, it ain’t for the fluff at heart.
Torsobear Volume 2: All Stitched Up finds our intrepid little copper, Detective Ruxby Bear, being sent to the one place all the toys in Toyburg fear – The Corner, all for a crime he didn’t commit. The story of Ruxby’s imprisonment bookends All Stitched Up, leaving the majority of its contents open for discussion, and boy does it encourage discussion!
Throughout Yarns from Toyburg, we were given an insight into the deprived world of Toyburg and its inhabitants. However, with All Stitched Up, our eyes are forcible glued to the very underbelly of this strange world. A cohesive story doesn’t fully play out here. Instead, All Stitched Up becomes far more of an anthology than Yarns from Toyburg, with each story feeling tighter in their individuality than the stories of Yarns from Toyburg. However, that’s not to say you’re free to read All Stitched Up in any order you choose. There is a continuity unfolding here, but it’s not the focus.
All Stitched Up feels both gentler and more vicious than its predecessor at the same time. The viciousness comes from the darker world that’s strewn before us. The Saturday Morning Wars, first hinted at in Yarns from Toyburg, become a little bit more real here, and the stories involving the inmates of The Corner are to die for in their execution, because of their nimble crafting of the characters and the changing atmosphere evoked by the multiple artists featured in this anthology.
The gentler elements come from Uren’s deft handling of how All Stitched Up plays out. It’s a demanding book for sure, as characters and worlds are thrown at us without a great deal of room given to catch up if you’re not paying attention. But the subtle nature of the book not only takes that gentleness and makes it engaging to read – it also highlights the inescapable viciousness.
Without spoiling things too much for you, the finale of All Stitched Up is a far more bitter-sweet affair than that of Yarns from Toyburg. That climax had a sense of victory to it, with Ruxby bear finally bringing a sense of justice to the citizens of Toyburg. All Stitched Up, however, has a finale that brings Toyburg’s horrid underbelly to the surface. It makes me despair for Ruxby, because All Stitched Up as a whole shows us how fruitless Ruxby’s hopes are in bringing justice. But that despair makes Torsobear: All Stitched Up all the more compelling. It’s rich in its depictions of injustice and corruption as a way of life, all beautifully shown by a fine collection of diverse artists and storytellers.
Cryptic, deadly and morose, Torsobear Volume 2: All Stitched Up is a decadent nightmare of a read. It’s impossible to read this without having read Yarns from Toyburg first, but All Stitched Up is the perfect follow-up to that graphic novel. A marvellous read.
Torsobear Volume 2: All Stitched Up launches at ThoughtBubble this weekend! Let us know when you buy a copy! You can buy your copy of Torsobear Volume 1: Yarns from Toyburg and pre-order All Stitched Up here!