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- Age Rating: 12 & Up
- Released By: TOKYOPOP
- MSRP: 9.99
- Pages: 192
- Size: B6
- Orientation: Left to Right
- Series: Faust Anthology
Legends of the Dark Crystal Vol. #01 - The Garthim Wars
By Ben Leary
January 23, 2008
Release Date: November 13, 2007
Legends of the Dark Crystal Vol.#01 - The Garthim Wars
Writer/Artist:Barbara Randall Kesel, Heidi Arnhold and Max Kim
Adapted by:What They Say
The Dark Crystal told the story of Jen and Kira, the last of their kind living in a fractured world precariously balanced between the forces of good and evil. This manga prequel takes place hundreds of years before the events of the film, when the gentle Gelflings and wise Mystics are still thriving.
Unfortunately, so are the evil Skeksis...The Review
The Dark Crystal is a film that somehow I'd missed out on all these years, despite being fan of fantasy in general, and loving Jim Henson's work - first through the Muppets, and more recently through the DVD release of his excellent television show The Storyteller. But this one got past me for one reason or another, and when I was given the chance to review this new adaptation, I jumped at it as a way of correcting this oversight by forcing me to watch the original in preparation. Unfortunately, I didn't care for the film as much as I thought I would. I didn't of course find fault with any of the production design or animatronics. I don't see how anyone could fail to be impressed with those. In fact the puppetry is almost too good, so good that it lead to doing things with the puppets just because they could be done, and not because they furthered the story. What I found in the end was an elaborately conceived and brilliantly realized fantasy world - but one that was still waiting for a brilliantly conceived and brilliantly realized fantasy story to take place in it. It had some good ideas, and it had its moments; but it took too long to get where it was going, and when it got there it didn't have quite enough to show for it.
So I was curious to see what this prequel comic could do with such promising material that hadn't yet been fully utilized. After all, the few movie adaptations that are better than their original books - The Wizard of Oz, The Four Feathers, The Maltese Falcon, for instance - are the ones that adapt books with a good basic premise that the book can't quite follow through on. Mightn't it work the other way? Couldn't a really good comic adaptation of a film take the already good ideas from its original and develop them further?
I was very pleased to find that this was indeed the case. Beginning with the visuals, the excellent creature designs that were there to begin with have lost nothing in the transition. Even where some new creatures show up, in the "mounders" herded by the hero, or his dog(?) Whouf, they fit in perfectly with the overall look of the universe. But the real attraction is the plotting. This is a perfect story for a volume one. The characters and situation are introduced quickly and effectively. There's enough background given for newcomers to understand what's going on, but not too much to bore the long-time fans. The story takes place sometime prior the events of the film, when the skeksis were first beginning to destroy the gelflings. It cleverly aviods the "beginning of the epic quest" formula and concentrates on the issue at hand: a peaceful race of herdsmen and gatherers learning to defend themselves against the marauding Garthim. The drama comes not from a lone adventurer seeking the Incredibly Magical Thingummy to save the world, but from watching the gelflings change from helpless victims to determined and resourceful fighters who can hold their own against their attackers. This makes for exciting reading, and there are some terrific, more subtle, moments along the way. I especially admire the way the debate of the gelfling elders was handled. It would have been easy to cast the elders that didn't take the hero's point of view as minor villains, or have them be stupid and stubborn to add pointless drama. But we are dealing with a storyteller who is above that. The dissenting arguments are reasonable and advanced with good sense. And there's a moment of real beauty - perhaps the best moment in the book - when the gelflings play a last sad song on their musical instruments before breaking them up to make weapons.
All in all this exactly the right way to do a first volume. You get a good story that ends on a satisfying note, and therefore has a feeling of completeness, while still looking forward to more adventures to come. If you have any interest in the Dark Crystal universe, or you're looking for a good fantasy read that avoids a lot of the genre formulas, or even if you just want to read a tie-in comic that's good enough to stand on its own legs, then this is a title (and, I expect, a series) that you won't want to miss. I said at the beginning that the world of The Dark Crystal was an impressive world waiting for an impressive story. The wait is over.