In Review: Jim Henson’s Beneath the Dark Crystal #11

The tension is solid as this series races to its conclusion.

The covers: Two covers to capture for the penultimate issue of this series. The Fire That Stays has become a monsterous series of waves, with the one in the foreground showing the character in profile screaming in rage. Within his head, fighting off the water, are the Firelings and those that live on the surface of Thra. Solid idea for a cover, but the colors make it difficult to make out the characters within the larger. This Regular cover is by Benjamin Dewey. The frontpiece I picked up was the Preorder cover by David Petersen. Kira flies backwards with Fizzgig held in her arms. She looks to be in the same location where the Chamberlain confronted her and Jen. The colors are in different shades of tans and grays giving it an aged appearance. This looks to be a cover that will combine with Issue #12. I love the movie and am always willing to pick up work featuring those characters, so I grabbed this cover. Overall grades: Regular C+ and Preorder A-

The story: Outside the crystal castle, several Gelflings, possessed by the Skeksis metal on them, swarm the heroes to take everything that they have. Black smoke billows out of their mouths and eyes. Kensho grabs the hands of the nearest effected Gelfling, light emanates from Kensho’s chest, and the Gelfling is cured. Kihnmor tells Kensho that there’s no way he can cure them all without them being overrun. Underground, Nita and Thurma are trying to get all of their people to take refuge in their castle so they are not destroyed by the approaching Fire That Stays, the entity that they thought was training them in previous issues. The villain arrives with his creatures in tow. Realizing that they will need to do more than use giant statues to bar the doors, Thurma has an idea. Writer Adam Smith moves the story between both locations extremely well; just as something important occurs, he moves to the other locale. This is an excellent way to create tension and he does an outstanding job at this. On the surface, an arrival on Page 11 is a cheer worthy moment. Kensho’s ultimate solution is very fitting, very much in line with the film that spawned this series. Whether it’s successful or not won’t be known until the next issue. Underground, the story is a little more predictable, with what the fire princesses decide to do. It’s still an entertaining read. The final page has another arrival and it’s a momentous one. This will undeniably change the actions of what’s occurring there. I look forward to seeing how this story concludes. Overall grade: B+

The art and colors: The first page of this issue is a full-paged splash and Alexandria Huntington makes it look spectacular. She has truly shown the split nature of Thra in one image. The heroes are in the dead center of the illustration, distant from the reader. In the foreground are all the effected Gelflings, with black smoke pouring out of them and their hands are grasping like zombies. At the top, furthest from the reader, is the crystal castle, a bright beacon of purity against a blue sky and the three suns. This is both beautiful and horrible — the perfect combination. When the heroes are shown they are against violet backgrounds, reminding the reader through a subtle color clue how close they are to being consumed by the effected. The underworld has bright colors, with orange, rose, and yellow dominating. There is always a sense of heat whenever this setting is shown. I like the bottom two panels on Page 6 that show the contrast between both forces close up. The smile that ends in 7 is wonderfully devilish. Coloring is key to Page 9 to show how light can overcome the darkness. The arrival on 10 is terrific, with me wishing the panel was larger to show this welcome character’s return. I like how the character is backlit with bright colors to make this entrance god-like. Notice how the backgrounds brighten considerably with this individual back in the book. I love the exit at the bottom of the page that looks incredibly speedy. The first panel on 12 is a layout executed flawlessly: the characters at the bottom look great and the person at the top excellent. The reveal on 14 is fine, but it was telegraphed strongly earlier. The three pages that follow are good for the composition and moving about because this is a heavy exposition scene. Page 20 goes back and forth between both locations between each panel and Huntington makes each panel exciting, ending with an image that binds both worlds together. The final page is a full-paged splash and is only missing heroic music for the arrival. It is a definite WOW! moment and Huntington makes it awesome. Overall grade: A

The letters: Jim Campbell creates the effected Gelflings’ speech, dialogue, sounds, yells, and the three word tease for the final issue. I really appreciated the slight variance in fonts for the tainted characters: italics are used, showing them to be slightly off from others. There are several different sounds in this issue, with them looking like the actions that are given. My favorite sound is the SWARRRUHHHHAWWW! that’s a younger version of the WARRUHHHAWW that older characters speak. The three word tease is in a script that resembles a fairy tale font, maintaining the fantasy feel of this series as this issue closes. Overall grade: A

The final line: One world is facing possession and the other facing death by flood. The tension is solid as this series races to its conclusion. Two character arrivals change the playing field and I’m very interested to see how this will all wrap up. The visuals continue to be incredibly strong, creating new fantasy worlds and characters with magnificent designs and superior colors. 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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