Before we continue, I suppose I should explain just what the heck a Tsum Tsum is to the uninitiated. Basically, Tsum Tsums are these little collectible stuffed toys based on popular Disney characters, including those from Star Wars and Marvel. The name “Tsum Tsum” is derived from the Japanese verb tsumu meaning “to stack,” since the toys are designed to stack on top of each other and form a pyramid shape.
The toys were originally released back in Japan in 2013 as a tie-in to the Tsum Tsum arcade and mobile games developed by Konami and Line Corporation. Not long after, Disney began to sell them in the United States in Disney theme parks and stores. A sort of combination of Beanie Babies, Funko POP! vinyl figures, and Hello Kitty, the Tsum Tsums have become quite popular with collectors as of late.
So how in the world do you make a narrative story out of Tsum Tsums of all things?? Well, luckily writer Jacob Chabot doesn’t really make it about the little critters at all, but instead about a group of kids who discover the creatures. (In this story, Tsum Tsums are from outer space.) In fact, space is where our story begins, with the Guardians of the Galaxy. The Guardians are trying to stop a shipment of some sort of mysterious illegal cargo, which slips away from Rocket and Groot and ends up barreling towards Earth in a crate.
It’s here that we are introduced to our protagonists, a trio of preteen kids who live in the same apartment complex in New York City. There’s Holly Hae, a young girl who lives in 16F; Albert “Bert” Ergle, occupant of 9B; and Duncan Diggs, aka “Dunk,” resident of 7G. All three kids are nerds in your classic Goonies mold–and this is where the Stranger Things comparison comes in, because this kids are an extremely likable group of little nerds from the get-go. They’re are all obsessed with the superheroes of the Marvel Universe, so when they spot Iron Man flying around their neighborhood, it’s the greatest day of their lives.
But their lives get a whole lot more interesting than just Iron Man flying around when the alien crate holding the Tsum Tsums end up crashing on the kid’s apartment building roof, and they act like they all just got the coolest toys ever made (I suppose that’s where this comics gets the most on-the-nose as a giant toy ad). Dunk is convinced that these weird aliens are going to give him powers, and considering they all live in the Marvel Universe, that’s not a far fetched notion for a kid to have. The bulk of this issue is really the kids just interacting with each other trying to figure out what to do with these cute little creatures, and their interactions with each other are well written and actually quite fun to read.
Finally, Ultron attacks outside the apartment building, and the Avengers respond. The little Tsum Tsums, it turns out, are mimickers — they copy and absorb things they see, and in this instance they are proximity to the Avengers and presto — cute little bouncy balls that look and sound like famous superheroes. As far as explanations go, I can get on board with this. At one point, one of the kids asks if them they can turn into anything, like a bear or other animal, to which they respond, “Yeah, but why would they want to?” Well, when you put it that way, who am I to argue?
Jacob Chabot’s writing gives these kids a refreshing voice and makes this comic much better than it really has any business being (considering it’s really just a toy tie-in) and the artwork by David Baldeon is equally top notch. He gives each of the kids in the story a very distinctive look and brings a ton of personality to his pencils. This is definitely an artist I want to see more of.
Overall, I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed Marvel Tsum Tsum #1. When you combine the cuteness of the comic with the fun kid characters, I can honestly recommend this without shame. It’s also the rare Marvel (or DC for that matter) comic that parents can give to their smaller children. Not bad for a comic about modern day Beanie Babies.
RATING: 3 OUT OF 5 BURRITOS
Marvel Tsum Tsums is available at comic book stores now.
Images: Marvel Comics