LEGENDS OF THE DARK CRYSTAL: The Garthim Wars Vol. 1 - Mania.com

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Mania Grade: B+

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  • Written By: Barbara Randall Kesel
  • Art By: Heidi Arnhold & Max Kim
  • Publisher: TOKYOPOP
  • Pages: 192
  • Price: $9.99


By Tim Janson     December 24, 2007

LEGENDS OF THE DARK CRYSTAL: The Garthim Wars Vol. 1 by Barbara Randall Kesel, Heidi Arnhold & Max Kim
In the 1980’s, there was quite a run on whimsical fantasy films. There was “Legend”, “Krull”, “Labyrinth”, “Willow”…Not sure why they are all single word titles. That’s kind of curious. Well one that wasn’t was The Dark Crystal. The Dark Crystal was the product of Jim Henson, best known as the creator of the Muppets and was one of the more unique and ambitious fantasy films of the era, notably because there no human actors in the film. All of the characters are similarly created creatures although on a much grander scale than the muppets. The Dark Crystal now comes to Manga from Tokyopop.
The setting is a planet called Thra and the Crystal of Truth powers the land. Centuries ago the Crystal cracked and the dominant race called the urSkeks was split into two different races: The gentle and wise Mystics and the evil, vulture-like Skeksis. The Skeksis soon dominate the lands, driving out the Mystics and conquering and destroying other races like the Gelflings (elves basically). The Manga is set several hundred years prior to the events in the film.
A young Gelfling named Lahr, a shepherd by trade, returns home to his village only to find it completely destroyed by the Garthim. The Garthim are the heavy foot-soldiers of the Skeksis. They are giant crab-like creatures who none have ever opposed. Lahr is cornered by one of the beasts and miraculously kills it. He meets Neffi, a female Gelfling whose village suffered the same fate. The Skeksis steal the Gelflings and feed off their life force. They find another village of Gelflings living in a valley, hidden away and protected, or so they think. When the Garthim are spotted in the distance, the Gelflings of the valley have to decide if they want to fight or flee. The book focuses almost entirely on the Gelflings and we see the Skeksis only briefly, but enough to know that there are plotters against the rule of Emperor Skekso.
I use the word whimsical again because it is the word that best describes the film and the Manga. At the time when the film came out, it did garner some parental concern over its dark tone but it’s rather tame by today’s standards. It’s safe to say that if you enjoyed the film and enjoyed that era of fantasy movies, you’ll probably like Dark Crystal. It’s a change of pace from traditional fantasy fare in that, again, there are no human characters. The Gelflings are not warriors, they are farmers and they are pacifists, first and foremost. It’s been many years since I’ve seen the film but the Manga does hold true to the spirit of that work.
The book is illustrated by Heidi Arnhold and Max Kim in a more traditional style of art than usual Manga. The art is extremely detailed with fine line work, particularly with the Skeksis. A fine effort in this debut of the new series.


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eelbonjack 12/24/2007 7:18:59 PM
I bought and read this one, and yes, the art was great, but I thought it felt like kind of a fluffy adventure. The two main Gelfling protagonists in it weren't much different from the ones in the movie, and the other ones were kind of generic. Maybe its all so simplistic that there isn't supposed to be that much to it. But who knows, it might get better. The Dark Crystal sequel in the works will hopefully be interesting. I remember very well seeing the film in theaters when it first came out. It sure resonates in my memory.


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