In Review: Jim Henson’s Beneath the Dark Crystal #10

The action underground increases, while salvation occurs on two fronts on the surface world.

The covers: A pair to find as the journey to unification inches closer. The Regular cover by Benjamin Dewey is an unusual one because this scene happens nowhere in this issue. A Gelfling with gray hair is stopped from entering the castle by three guards, with the superior officer having full armor and antlers on his helmet. This looks okay, but I have no context for this, so I don’t have any emotional tie-in to it. Better is the Preorder cover by David Petersen which continues pairing a mystic with a Skeksis and an urRu. I searched online and I couldn’t identify this pair. Against a sandy background looking to the left is an urRu holdingĀ  staff. His entire back and tail is covered in a material that makes it appear like he has scales. Behind him is his Skeksis counterpart facing the right. This individual has skeletal bat wings on his back and he’s clothed with several tassels, with two wrapped around his wrist. I don’t who this pair is, but they, like the previous covers by Petersen, look incredible. Overall grades: Regular C and Preorder A

The story: Adam Smith’s tale opens with The Fire That Stays, the wizened individual who was revealed to be a threat last issue, being pursued by Nita and Thurma. The villain is at least a day ahead of the pair, but they know they must continue on their path to save firelings. When the pair reach the first village they find it’s under attack by fragors, giant fire ants. Meanwhile, Kensho makes his way to a podling village where he encounters Bohrtog and his friends that abandoned him last issue. They are reluctant to help him, but something occurs that wins back their trust. Unfortunately one of their group has returned to the castle and it’s there that they race. Back underground, things heat up (pun intended), where the two allies confront The Fire That Stays and things do not go as planned. Both stories are racing to their conclusions and I couldn’t turn the pages quickly enough. Overall grade: A

The art and colors: You are really missing out on something special if you’re not looking at the art and colors on this book by Alexandria Huntington. Seriously, these visuals transport the reader to a world unseen. The heat coming off the first three pages is intense, yet undeniably mesmerizing. The object encountered in the second panel on the first page is beautiful and blinding. The fourth panel on the page is magic come to life. The actions on the second page by the fire princesses look amazing, and check out their mode of transportation on the third page — how cool is that? Page 4 is a full paged splash showing the attack occurring on the village, but the top half of the illustration is wasted because it’s so empty; more characters would have helped it immensely. Look at the terrific fantasy setting on the fifth page and the incredible colors. Bohrtog is a wonderfully designed character and though his appearance in this issue is brief, it is memorable. The reveal at the end of Page 7 is shocking, as nothing like this has been seen before in this series. The fragors make an excellent army — you see what I did there? — and their design, though familiar, is frightening regardless of their size, which is monstrous. The exorcism on 12 is excellent with the pictures telling the story more so than the text. Notice how the colors brighten as the individual is cleansed. There is very little text on 14 – 16, with the visuals communicating how the battle goes, ending with an unexpected result. The final page shows the castles of both worlds, the final destinations for the heroes. Very cool. Overall grade: A

The letters: Narration, dialogue, a song, sounds, crazed speech, weakened speech, a drum line, and the tease for next issue are created by Jim Campbell. I am always appreciative of letterers that differ narration from dialogue, instead of relying on the shape or color of the balloons or boxes that contain them. The song is set off by a single musical note and the text being in italics. The sounds are big and rightly punch up actions in the story. One individual has a frantic scrawl for crazed dialogue that eventually becomes weakened speech through small dialogue to show the character’s change. A large number of drums sound off toward the issue’s end, with several musical notes repeated to illustrate their overwhelming rhythm. The tease for next issue is a fancy font that increases the fantasy feel of this issue as it ends. Overall grade: A+

The final line: The action underground increases, while salvation occurs on two fronts on the surface world. The story’s tension is ramping up with only two issues to go and neither group of heroes looks any closer to achieving their goals. The visuals are flat out stunning in this series, creating a world that would do Jim Henson proud by taking the reader someplace they’ve never been before. This book is staggeringly beautiful. Overall grade: A

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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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