All-Ages or Small-Ages #22 (Marvel Tsum Tsum #1 by Jacob Chabot, David Baldeón, Terry Pallott and Jim Campbell)

See all of the past entries of All-Ages or Small-Ages here.

There are a wide array of all-ages comics out there from the classic Archie comics, through the  Sonic the Hedgehog and Disney, all the way to the original properties such as Lumberjanes. You might look at one of these books and think that, as an adult, it doesn’t have much to offer you. As someone who has discovered a deep fondness for titles such as this, I’ve been surprised by how rich and complex the stories can be. All-Ages or Small-Ages? is a feature that takes a look at the books that fall under this banner and attempts to analyse whether or not their assigned label is apt; is it a book that you can read along with your children?

For those who aren’t connected into a social circle that discusses Disney products, Tsum Tsums are the most recent merchandising craze to spread across the Western world. Originating in Japan, where the name comes from the word "tsumu" which literally means “to stack”, they’re a collectible phenomenon. A large proportion of the comic-reading world groaned when Marvel announced a tie-in miniseries that would explore their origin story, but people have come out of the woodwork to say that this story is actually worth reading.

While this issue does begin to explore the origin behind the Tsum Tsums, it shrewdly keeps the focus upon the children that discover them. Holly, Bert and Dunk are a group of friends that share the same apartment block in Brooklyn, spending their free time collecting photos of superheroes that fly past their homes. We are dropped into the middle of story of one of these photos, giving the beginning a contagious enthusiasm that quickly carries across to the rest of the story.

It’s very easy to look as these children, even as an adult, and see a part of yourself that you look back at with fondness. These aren’t ungrateful or obnoxious children; these are simply kids that are immensely excited in their favourite hobby. However, it's worth mentioning that if you’re coming into this story as someone who can’t stand the antics of young children, then this issue might start to grate on you quite quickly. The only adult present isn’t the most savoury of folk, creating a story that will definitively be children triumphing over the grumpiness of the adults in their lives.

Deciding to ground the narrative in its effect on the people stops this issue from feeling (entirely) like a forced merchandising opportunity. The reason for the appearance of the tsum tsums in their current form is prevented from feeling contrived by the sentiment and the inspirational themes behind it. I’m unaware if Chabot pitched the idea himself or was presented with the story in this form, but it’s a story that feels as though it belongs in this universe. Whether or not this story exists in primary Marvel continuity remains to be seen, but it’s a very promising beginning.

Baldeón’s art is, for me, the part of the issue that takes it from a story that you can appreciate for what it is to something far more tremendous. His page structures alone in this issue are something to marvel at. Baldeón uses a range of cross sections and wide shots to effortlessly guide your eye across the page, creating such an energetic sense of motion from each of the characters and highlighting the ideal parts of the story. Beyond those special layouts, his regular grids still feel both concise and considered, making sure that even the most subdued of scenes feels alive.

Baldeón has always had an exaggerated stylisation to his art that collates and displays all of the energy that you need to make young characters feel vibrant. His recent work with Sam Alexander on Nova pushed him into the top tier artists of young characters and his work here charges on relentlessly in that vein. Each of the children have their own distinct look which, when coupled with the personalities handed them by Chabot, makes them each immediately identifiable and therefore far more engaging.

This issue manages to combine humour and narrative depth in a way usually reserved for more mature books such as The Fix or Mythic; you feel like you’re getting a substantial story for your money, but you’re also chuckling along as you read. As previously mentioned, the actual origin story of these creatures still has yet to be revealed, but there’s enough of a mystery introduced while not losing any of the wacky antics that you might expect. I'm absolutely addicted and I can't wait to see what happens next.

If you were like me and groaned at the knowledge that a comic series was being created to give these, admittedly brilliant in concept, collector’s items an in-world explanation, you can go in with confidence that these talented creators have it all well in hand. Baldeón continues to demonstrate his range and finesse in the art and Chabot, who was previously unknown to me, makes a large splash. I wouldn’t have thought it going in, but this is definitely a miniseries with a hell of a lot to offer everyone. Go and grab the first issue and get caught up before it gets away from you.

Let me know if there's a comic that you think I should be checking out. I'm always on the look-out for some more hidden All-Ages gold. Contact me at or head over to check out the podcast that I co-host You Know What I Like...? on SoundCloud.