“The Dark Crystal” is a childhood treasure for many. Though it might not be Jim Henson’s crowning achievement — “The Muppets” is the obvious choice and “Labyrinth” is certainly more approachable and flat out enjoyable — this world of strange creatures and groundbreaking animatronics on screen is fondly remembered. Sadly, this comic does not live up to the original product, nor even the nostalgia still floating about it decades later.
The cardinal sin of this book is that it is boring. The set up is a creature telling a tale. This gives the narrative prose opportunities to be lyrical and whimsical, of which it certainly takes advantage, but it detaches us from the story. It’s hard to get involved when the text introduces us from afar and then reports to us the actions within the story. Each scene is explained far too easily and there is no investment developed for nearly the entire book. This is all expositional reporting with some pictures behind it all. It’s not a great use of comic pages.
It is only as we near the end that anything on the pages becomes engaging. Secrets spill out, stupid reactions are effected, and a stand off is employed. These characters, who we have seen but not truly known, finally start to act and speak as if the story is rolling out in front of them. Everything else as prelude is delivered in a rote style with a detachment that it does not lure the reader in.
This style of storytelling is a shame because the narrative, finally, builds to something of interest; it could have meant more had we been given the time to care and understand these characters. This narrative peak comes right at the end and might leave you wanting to dabble in the next installment of this trilogy presentation or you may feel burned by this lackluster performance and not willing to risk a second time, and all that money. There are a multitude of creative explosions here but they sit on the page like window dressing and as such we see them but rarely feel their impact.
The art from Alex Sheikman and Lizzy John is inventive, smooth and fun. They bring this strange world to life through warped lines and crazy anatomy. The visuals are congruent with the film we know. The storytelling is effective, though simple in parts. The coloring ranges from well planned out to sometimes being a little plain.
Major fans of “The Dark Crystal” will welcome this return to the shadowed lands of bizarre creatures. There is much here to remind you of why you love the old movie, but in the end this first act will only send you off to the DVD because the spirit isn’t entirely captured here. If you liked the old movie and were thinking of taking on chance on this book I would steer you clear. Go pop in “Labyrinth” instead and have a really good time.