Thoughtful and evocative, The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance #1 is the perfect complement to the hit Netflix show. With a story by show writers Jeffrey Addiss and Will Matthews, comics writer Nicole Andelfinger (Adventure Time, Lumberjanes) penned the four-issue prequel to a prequel that serves as an enticing glimpse of the world of Thra before the Age of Resistance.
The war between the Gelflings and Arathim rages, and the Skeksis are the Gelfling’s trusted advisors, which, as intended, is a bit unsettling. Andelfinger sets a fast pace with short scenes as the issue opens with Arathim attacking a village before we meet the Gelfling warrior Ordon as he trains the troops and the Skeksis Lord who offers Ordon a position as a guard at the Crystal Palace. With smart, rapid story shifts that smoothly exit one character and enter another, the issue feels like a stage play within the grand setting of dark epic fantasy.
Ordon learns of the village attack and delivers the only survivor to Maudra Vala, the clan ruler. The Arathim are being led by the Ascendancy, a merging of many into a single being possessed of a hive mind. It’s a creature not likely to fall to conventional weapons, and the advisor recommends a quest to the tomb of relics to retrieve the Dual Glaive. The quest will dominate the plot for the series, and Andelfinger will doubtless deliver some excellent action sequences along the way, but that’s not the best part of the story. She understands that character development is the real engine that drives epic fantasy, and this issue delivers all the required character tropes with a compelling grace. The heroes aren’t perfect, the bad guys haven’t revealed their true natures, and the story shows us what the Gelflings are fighting for.
None of that lavish character development would happen without the artwork of Matias Basla (Sparrowhawk) providing the emotional foundation. In the Dark Crystal film and the new television show, emotion is difficult to express on the faces of the puppets and the creators rely on the motion of eyes and tilting of the head and shoulders to convey it. Matias has an efficient, sparse style, and the sophistication of his panels lies in the details he includes.
The heart of this issue is the scene between Ordon and his wife Shoni, where Basla beautifully renders their home as a warm, comforting place courtesy of Miquel Muerto’s earthy colors. It's a masterful parting scene that holds all the support, worry, pride, and love of their relationship as well as the weight of responsibility to the clan that each will gladly bear for the other.
Die-hard Dark Crystal fans will enjoy this journey, and it hits all the best fantasy elements surrounding a perilous quest, with high stakes, compelling characters, and endearing bits of humor that make it all relatable. Newer fans who are just jumping in with this series will enjoy it as well, but they might want to do a little Dark Crystal homework to really understand what’s at stake.