In Review: Jim Henson’s Beneath the Dark Crystal #1

The story is a little bumpy for new readers, but the visuals are beautiful.

The covers: A lucky seven covers to collect if one has enough time before the next alignment occurs. The Regular cover by Benjamin Dewey features a gigantic image of Thurma as the Ember Queen. Before her, on a rocky outcropping, is a full figure of Kira accompanied by a cute four legged, dinosaur-like creature. I could be completely wrong with the character identifications; read my review in the Story section for my reasons why. That said, I do like this cover. The coloring is neat and the characters do look as though they belong in the Dark Crystal universe. The Preorder cover by David Petersen features a Mystic turned to the right with the Skeksis’ Chamberlain behind him facing to the to the left. Behind both is one of the glyphs that the Mystics created. This is colored in tans and browns, with just a bit a light blue on the Mystic’s clothes. This is a illustration of the characters I’m familiar with and it looks outstanding. The first Variant cover is by Ramón K. Pérez and shows one possible future which has Nita on the throne as the Ember Queen. Below her is the same type of creature that was near Kira on the Regular cover. Next to this creature is a pale Gelfling in a white outfit. Flame encircles all and in the foreground hands raise in supplication to their queen. I don’t know what’s going on in this image, but it is ominous. Dave McKean is the creator of the second Variant cover and this is very abstract, which is typical of the artist’s works. It looks as though two Gelflings are hugging one another as leaves fly about. Behind them is a tree and the moon, with the crescent shape morphing into different shapes as it hits the ground. In the bottom right corner is a Mystic. This certainly creates a fantasy tone. The San Diego Comic-Con Previews Exclusive cover by Kelly and Nichole Matthews is a beautiful image of Thurma standing upon a cliff, fire trailing from her body and head, surrounded by glowing orange and white rocks against a beautiful glyph that’s reminiscent of the Mystics’ work. I love this cover. There’s also a San Diego Comic-Con Exclusive cover by Jay Fosgitt, but sadly I couldn’t find a copy of it online. Good luck, collectors! The Unlocked Retailer Variant cover by Chris Samnee with colors by Matt Wilson features Jen and Kira, who is holding Fizzgig, stopped at the edge of cliff as two Skeksis appear on either side of them. The villains look gigantic against the Gelflings and the colors hint they might actually be rocky outcroppings that the two heroes have confused for their foes. A neat idea for a cover, but the colors are just too dreary, making it difficult to make out the details of the art. Overall grades: Regular A, Preorder A+, Variant Pérez A, Variant McKean B+, San Diego Comic-Con Previews Exclusive A+, and Unlocked Retailer Variant C- 

The story: I haven’t read any of BOOM’s Crystal stories, so this was all new to me. It was a bit confusing, with exception to one character from the film, everyone was new. There’s obviously been some history, but it’s not specifically told to the reader, leaving me grasping as to who’s who and what the locations are, let alone what the time period is. That said, writer Adam Smith has created a story that is readable, but leaves me with a lot of questions. Based on the opening three pages, it is a new era for the planet Thra on which the crystal resides. There are two different groups on this world, those that resemble the Gelflings from the film and fire people who live beneath the surface. Both are having their trials and tribulations, with the successor to Jen and Kira, Kensho, frustrated by the council’s lack of action in helping its people. He meets up with Toolah, whom he asks to help him to make the people’s lives better. Meanwhile in the fire underworld, Thurma is about to assume the mantle of leadership for her people if no one challenges her. This is what I got out of this story, so far. I like the film well enough to continue to see where this series go, so I’m willing to give it another issue. Overall grade: B-

The art and the colors: Alexandria Huntington is the artist and colorist of this book and it is beautiful. The book opens with a full-paged splash that shows the dual nature of the world, like in an ancient atlas, with a Mystic and a Skeksis on either side. The second page is also a full-paged splash, this time showing how the world above and below currently exists. Both worlds look to be at peace. The third page is yet another full-paged splash, this time with the illustration of the first page moved up and the title of this series taking the bottom half of the space. The fourth page has two panels devoted to each kingdom, with the Mithra portion getting some very creative panel shapes to suggest its fiery nation. Those on the surface appear to be farmers, while those underneath are much more elegant. Page 5 has the famous crystal in a room surrounded by treasure and being visited by Kensho. Those that speak to him look good, and the minor flashback on 6 teases an important past event. The entrance of the character on 7 is outstanding, with my reaction to his appearance being similar to those of the other characters. The full reveal of this character on 8 has it looking fantastic. Toolah’s appearance is also well done, with it being comical and endearing. The one character from the film appears on 8 and she is much more attractive in this book than she was on the big screen. Every scene on Mithra is a stunner, not only for the characters and their settings, but the colors which are bold oranges and yellows, making every panel and page hot. I do like that different colors were employed in this locale for the crystals that appear. Everything about this book is beautiful and I’m want to see more of what Huntington can do. Overall grade: A

The letters: This book’s text is crafted by Jim Campbell and includes narration, dialogue, and the three words at the end of the issue that state this story will be continued. All that Campbell creates is clear and easy to read. There’s no need for sounds in this issue as there isn’t one needed for any part of this opening installment. I would like to say how happy I am to see that Campbell uses a different font for the dialogue and the narration. These are two different forms of communication and I’ve learned over time that the better letterers always differentiate them. Overall grade: A

The final line: The story is a little bumpy for new readers, but I’m sure that Smith will fill in the gaps in the remaining eleven issues. The visuals are incredible and wonderfully create this fantasy world. I’m in for at least one more issue and I hope that the story gets a little easier to follow. Overall grade: B+

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Patrick Hayes was a contributor to the Comic Buyer's Guide for several years with "It's Bound to Happen!" and he's reviewed comics for TrekWeb and TrekCore. He's taught 8th graders English for 20 years and has taught high school English for five years and counting. He reads everything as often as he can, when not grading papers or looking up Star Trek, Star Wars, or Indiana Jones items online.
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