This month, Archaia is releasing the second installment of their Dark Crystal graphic novel cycle. The 90+ page story details a critical moment in the Dark Crystal mythology, as Brian Froud continues to flesh out the years leading up to 1982’s cult classic film, The Dark Crystal.
If you’re not familiar with the property, The Dark Crystal and its prequels tell tales of the various species – all of whom bear the distinctive appearance of a Jim Henson creation – living on a world known as Thra. These inhabitants live in relative peace, fearing and revering the mystical keepers of the crystal to varying degrees.
In essence, though, these stories are classic archetypal storytelling draped with fantasy motifs. The concept for The Dark Crystal, as detailed in the 7-page autobiographical tale by David Odell, originated as a representation of Jim Henson’s personal blend of new age philosophies. As such, it’s no surprise that so many characters can be described so completely using only the terms hero, shapeshifter, and mentor.
Without spoiling the story to any great degree, Gyr, a humble gelfling, once again takes up the torch of adventure just before the Great Conjunction, a once-in-a-millenium event. It’s fun to watch the key events precipitating the film’s premise playing out over the course of this graphic novel. By no means is it a prerequisite to see the film or read Volume 1, but some introduction to the characters and setting might be helpful rather than trying to absorb both all at the start of this graphic novel.
The craftsmanship is secondary in quality to the philosophical undertones, but they hold up reasonably well on their own. The realization of characters and environments here accurately recall Henson’s style in general and the film’s players and locations in particular. Strangely, the action sequences – always a difficult proposition for Muppet productions – is also the weakest portion of the graphic novel. This is not a dealbreaker for the volume, but it does keep the story rather low key from start to finish.
The audience that would find the most enjoyment in Jim Henson’s The Dark Crystal Volume 2 is, unsurprisingly, young readers. It’s facile and unoffensive, but it also doesn’t dumb down its message for a naïve understanding of the world. For that reason, there’s longevity to the graphic novel’s value, as it provides reading material before bedtime and on family trips all the way from childhood through adolescence. Adult fans of the series will, of course, be interested in this book as well; however, their enjoyment is likely to be firmly rooted in nostalgia.
Poet Mase is a regular contributor to IGN who isn't afraid to
admit he was a little terrified the first time he saw The Dark Crystal.