A few months ago, I reviewed Return to Labyrinth – a 4 part manga/comic continuation of the epically awesome 1986 Jim Henson film – Labyrinth.
You can probably imagine how excited I became when the very same publisher (Tokyopop) announced that they were bringing out a three part sequel to The Dark Crystal, another Jim Henson film, and again, one of my childhood favourites!
The 1982 film was, without question, darker than its predecessor – set in the ruined world of Thra. The protagonist – Jen – believes that he is the last of his kind, the final remaining Gelfling.
Taken in upon his parents death by the enigmatic Mystics, Jen only finds out his destiny on the event of his Master’s death. He is told of the Gelfling prophecy, and that he is the one who must ‘heal’ the dark crystal, restoring it to a whole state and thereby restoring balance throughout the world. The Dark Crystal had been cracked a thousand years previously.
His journey, and the fate of his world, is beautifully captured in the film, and I would really recommend it, especially if you have young un’s. It can be a bit scary in places, but so is the world, and every child should have the right to see the world through Henson’s eyes.
(Incidentally, and for my fellow geeks, I’m delighted to hear that a sequel is being planned (announced anyway in May 2010). Ok, it’s in 3D…for the moment…but who knows, by the time it’s actually made, that fad might have worn itself out!)
The comics are not by any means a sequel to the film. Instead, the bold decision was made to set the story in the past. Hundreds of years before Jen’s story, set before the extermination of the Gelflings, but after the Great Conjunction (when the crystal was cracked).
Legends of the Dark Crystal, Vol’s 1 and 2 – the 3rd planned in the series was cancelled – examines a different Thra from that of the film. In this story, Thra is slowly breaking down but is not yet broken.
Lahr, a herder, is a simple Gelfling, with simple needs. He lives with his family in a small village – not home, just the latest in a long line of attempts to retain a normal existance in a place becoming violent and dangerous.
After his family are captured, or possibly killed, by the ruthless Garthim, Lahr is forced to undertake a voyage to warn other Gelflings. En route, he joins forces with Neffi – a winged female who has been similarly dispossessed by the same band of Garthim.
After sucessfully defending the Namopo Valley village, Lahr and Neffi realise that the Garthim are capturing Gelflings *alive* for the even more evil Skesksis. They decided that they must steal into the Dark Castle, and rescue as many as they can.
Vol 2: Trial by fire – follows on from the moment vol 1 ends, with our inspirational duo heading for the castle (hee hee, every time I think of the Dark Castle I keep flashing to that little worm from Labyrinth. “If she’d ‘ave kept on goin’ down that way she’d ‘ave gone straight to that castle.“).
I don’t want to give too much away, but the second volume, in my opinion, is a far more pace-y, dramatic and dark book. Both the Mystics and Skeksis feature far more. And, although the ending is obvious to those who are familiar with the film…ok, overly familiar with the film, it manages to be unexpected at the same time.
I’ve articulated that poorly, but I’m sure you know what I mean!
Again, I will be lending these around to any of my mates that express an interest. However, unlike the Return to Labyrinth series – which I will even lend to people who’ve never heard of the film! – I have reservations with this one.
The artwork can’t be faulted, the story line makes familiar territory new again, altogether, it is a polished and well presented product. And therein lies the rub.
While Return to Labyrinth, in places, felt a little rushed, with some characters rather sloppily put together, and pretty much all of Volume 1 being just a tad fan-girl-ish; you could tell that the creaters *really, really* loved the original film.
Here, it feels a bit more like a technical challenge. As though it was so much more tricky to put together than somewhere along the line, the books lose their sense of fun.
It’s a pity that the third volume will not now be released. It felt as though the series had found its feet, and was finally entering territory as dark as the film that inspired it. The final panals of volume 2 create a sense of forboding, and I for one, would have loved to see more snippits from that particular time line.
Long story short – if you’re already a fan of comics, manga and, obviously, the film, go check it out from your local library. Have a read, then head straight to the comments and let me know what you think!
If you are merely interested in dipping your toe into the whole comics scene, I’d go for the Labyrinth books instead!