In Review: Jim Henson’s Beneath the Dark Crystal #4

A solid read, though the key action sequence of the book is hard to follow.

The covers: Three different covers to collect. Thankfully you’ll not have to compete against others to acquire them. The Regular cover by Benjamin Dewey shows an unknown Gelfling looking out from a cave to see a pack of Landstriders moving across a green prairie. Beautiful mountains and the three suns can also be seen under a light blue sky. Oh, and there’s a dragon next to the Gelfling. A neat cover, but the Landstriders and the view is very simply rendered, with them all being suggestions of characters rather than completed versions. Nice, but looking closely, too loose for me. The Preorder cover by David Petersen is another sensational cover that contains a Skeksis and a Mystic. SkekTek is the Skeksis, looking toward the right. His mechanical devices are easily seen and give him a truly creepy tone. UrTih the Mystic stands before SkekTek looking toward the left. The details on his clothing and hair are incredible. Both characters are positioned before a circular graph. The colors are different shades of brown and tan, giving the illustration an aged look. The Variant cover by Michael Allred with colors by Josh Bodwell is epic looking. It contains images from the film, with the Dark Crystal in the center. Surrounding it are the runes and symbols on the floor with five Skeksis before the magical crystal. Below them are Jen and Kira walking in a cave; to their right are two Skeksis, while to their left is Aughra. To the right of the Dark Crystal are Jen and Kira and to the left are two of the Mystics. Above the crystal are three triangles on top of each other, with the topmost one containing three circles. If one has seen the movie, all of these characters will be familiar. Excellent art and perfect colors. Overall grades: Regular C+, Preroder A+, and Variant A+

The story: In his workplace, guard Branch is trying to play a lute with no success. Prisoner Dihnmor, who tipped off the law to the arrival of Kensho and Toolah’s entrance into town, is given the instrument and proceeds to play a song from the jailer’s youth which causes Branch to fall asleep. Outside the prison, Kensho pleads with Toolah to do no harm to Dihnmor, as they are there to get back the stone that was taken from him. Toolah agrees to help only if he tells her about Thurma. He agrees and she asks what his plan is to get the stone. “Get inside the prison…That’s as far as I got before you showed up.” Groaning at his ability to think ahead, Toolah takes matters into her own hands and nocks an arrow. Meanwhile, Thurma, Nita, and Glasme have encountered a Fragor. It has some unique abilities that causes the trio trouble. If they can work together they can stop the creature, but that’s a big if. The major action of Adam Smith’s tale comes with the trio fighting the creature. It’s exciting, with a new character assisting them. I like this character, but after the quick exit of another new character, it came off as exchanging one for another. Hopefully this new individual will last longer. Kensho and Toolah’s story has great emotional pull with a discovery changing one of the character’s focus. There’s a good cliffhanger for this tale. This was an enjoyable read, but didn’t come as a life changing experience for any character. Overall grade: B

The art and colors: This issue continues to show how good Alexandria Huntington is with her artwork. The first panel of the book shows Kensho and Toolah walking to the entrance of the prison. The setting is beautiful and the colors perfect. Within the jail things look just as lovely, even if it contains a cell. Notice how Huntington places prisoner Dihnmor against a yellow-orange background to instantly draw the reader’s eyes to him. Jailer Branch stands out with his off-lime shirt that’s against violet colored stone walls. The look that Dihnmor makes at the end is fantastic. Also giving terrific visual responses is Toolah, first on Page 3 and then on 4, with that close-up of her on 4 beautiful. Kensho has a funny response in the fourth panel on 5. When the story moves to Thurma and Nita’s situation it’s a dramatic visual shift with the colors becoming strong reds and yellows for the Fragor. The bright colors continue when the protagonists are shown, who come across much softer than the creature they’re fighting because they have black outlines for their characters, while the beast is outlined in red. The image that Thurma sees on 8 is very sad and becomes even more so when something happens to it in the last panel. A full-paged splash is employed on 10 for a shocking reveal. What’s shown is good, with some very disturbing imagery hinted at rather than explicitly shown. I like this, but the top third of the illustration is wasted on wall; pulling in tighter to the characters would have been better. This may seem an odd comment, but Kensho and Toolah’s hair on the pages that follow look incredible, both in their design and their coloring. The action scenes that follow on Pages 12 – 15 confused me. I couldn’t understand where characters were in relationship to each other, as proximity is key to what happens, and I didn’t know what magical actions were occurring. I understood the end result, but how the reader is taken to the conclusion of the battle was lost upon me. Those panels looked pretty, though. What’s shown of the new character is cool and I’m hoping that next issue the reader is shown a complete image of this individual. Overall grade: B+

The letters: Jim Campbell creates music, dialogue, a song, someone falling asleep, sounds, Glasme’s dialogue, and the three word tease for next issue. I like that when Dihnmor sings his lines are in italics, giving him a musical feel. Branch’s dialogue as he nods off becomes fainter with each word, visually showing the reader he’s falling asleep. Glasme’s dialogue font is very different from everyone else which makes sense considering where she’s from. There are several big sounds in this issue and they make the actions strong. Overall grade: A

The final line: A solid read, though the key action sequence of the book is hard to follow. I love the scenes with Kensho and Toolah who are a perfect combination of opposites. Thurma and Nita’s scenes are gorgeous to look upon, but hard to follow. The new character that appears is neat, for what’s shown. I’m enjoying this enough to continue to follow it. 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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