In Review: Jim Henson’s Beneath the Dark Crystal #5

The Firelings get schooled and Kensho is in a very bad place in this installment.

The covers: A trio to pick up, if you think you’ve learned the way to get them. The Regular cover by Benjamin Dewey shows two Firelings atop a bridge, each has a hand conjuring a fireball. They’re speaking to each other aggressively as flame billows above them. Below is a crowd, not Firelings or Gelflings, and they’re not happy with the spectacle. Nice, but since I don’t know who these characters are or what’s occurring I have no emotional buy in. The Preorder cover is by David Petersen and again features a Skeksis and a Mystic. The taller creature is skekShod the Treasurer. He holds a pouch of coins in one hand and a dagger in the other. He looks down in contempt at his counter urYod the Numerologist. Both are exceptional in their details, are colored in tans and browns, and are standing before the mystic symbol of the Dark Crystal. If one looks closely white lines can be seen creating another symbol over both. These covers by Petersen have been exceptional. The Variant cover is by Ramón K. Pérez and it is a close-up of one of the Garthim, the horrific enforcers of the Skeksis. This is what a Gelfling would see as the terrible creature grabbed them to take to their masters. Great point of view and great coloring. I really like this. It captures the character well. Overall grade: Regular B-, Preorder A+, and Variant A

The story: The first three pages of Adam Smith’s tale has Nita and Thurma’s newly found instructor imparting knowledge on what it takes to create the Glass Castle. He captures a beztle and asks each what they would do to save such a delicate creature. Nita says she would keep it in the jar to preserve it, which Thurma counters would be imprisonment. This has the pair going over previous failures, making the teacher interrupt, “What happened was never and has never been of importance to what lies ahead.” Using his staff he captures a bit of flame and weaves it into a miniature glass castle to make a point. The impact is not lost on either Fireling. On Page 6 one of the young women has a conversation that could be key to her future. Back on the surface, Toolah is with Dihnmor and the twins trying to figure out what to do about Kensho who has been captured by Branch. What the immense man wants from the Gelfling is really frightening, bordering on being as perverse as what the Skesis did with the Pod People. Smith expertly goes above and below the surface, detailing the history of the Glass Castle, while giving the women a task to achieve, and showing how Kensho might be rescued from a fate worse than death. Good history, good tension, and some pleasant surprises. The magic is still going in this story. Overall grade: A-

The art and colors: Alexandria Huntington really makes the Firelings and their surroundings beautiful. Smooth curvy lines mimic flame and the colors are amazing, creating warmth with reds, oranges, and yellows, but also making them feel safe. The beauty of Huntington’s linework and colors is made obvious by the large panel on the second page which is glorious. The design of the instructor is fantastic, with him resembling a classic sensei, complete with flowing robes, long beard, and a staff. His knowing smiles when he surprises one of his pupils is delightful. The final two panels on Page 6 communicate something learned without any text. I like Dihnmor’s new countenance; he’s no longer the smiling jovial soul, but visually is saddened by Kensho’s sacrifice. And speaking of Kensho, he’s in the worst possible place. The horrors of the setting are obvious on Page 8, with things on the wall being horrific, followed by a terrible smile by Branch. The full-paged splash on 9 is unfortunately ineffective. The reader is too far from Kensho, the coloring is too dark to allow the horrors in it to be clearly seen, and it’s a really empty space. Pulling in tighter to Kensho would have been a much more effective choice to increase the terror of what’s to come. The final panel on 10 is outstanding: an excellent visual that sums up this character superbly. The design of the item in the third panel on 11 perfectly mirror some iconic creatures’ hands. 13 is a beautiful looking page in its art and its colors. The full-paged splash on 14 comes off well, showing the collision of two elements. The colors and visuals this page are gorgeous. The final panel on 19 made my heart sing when combined with the dialogue. The last two panels of the issue clearly communicated what’s occurring and leaves me in a lurch until the next issue. I enjoyed the beneath visuals more so than the above. Overall grade: A-

The letters: The text by Jim Campbell includes narration, dialogue, weakened speech, and the three word tease for next issue. The narration of this book occurs from speakers not shown in a panel, which is most often done by the teacher. Campbell didn’t need to differ the look of such speech, as the speaker is eventually shown, but it was nice of him to do so. The weakened speech only occurs on the final page. It is is a smaller and a lighter font to emphasize the state of the speaker. The last three words of the issue are in a script that resembles that of a fairy tale, which suits this series perfectly. There aren’t many opportunities for sounds in this issue, though breaking glass would have been nice to see and hear for dramatic effect. Overall grade: A

The final line: The Firelings get schooled and Kensho is in a very bad place in this installment. The plot is definitely moving forward for both stories, with the Firelings having more action than the Gelflings, but I really want to see what’s going to happen to Kensho. The visuals are more engaging for one story than the other, though both are very fanciful. This issue has me eager to see what happens next. 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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