In Review: Jim Henson’s Labyrinth: Coronation #4

Maria encounters an old friend, finds a new ally, and makes a realization, while the Owl King begins to cheat.

The covers: Another pair to collect if one is a fan of this 80’s film. The Regular cover by Fiona Staples is beautiful. It shows Jareth at the masquerade, holding a glass of wine and looking annoyed to his right. He’s surrounded by several guests in appropriate garb, but the reveler in the foreground is actually two goblins in disguise as a female guest. They give this illustration a very creepy tone, as does the statue before the Goblin King, which is a goblin cherub. The colors on this are also great with pinks for the background characters, darker colors for Jareth, and the pair of creatures in disguise darker still. The image is also wrapped in the labyrinth motif that has been on the previous covers. The Variant cover by Rebekah Isaacs and continues the motif of characters looking into one of Jareth’s magical gazing orbs. This time Jareth is holding the glass, which emanates a white glow upon him, also making his hair fly about as if in a breeze. The vision he’s looking upon with a smile is Maria standing atop one of the walls that comprises the infamous labyrinth. It’s night and full moon shows her how difficult her path will be. Another great cover from a great artist. Overall grades: Both A 

The story: Within his looking glass Jareth watches as Sarah and Ludo encounter the obstacle of the talking doorknockers. He’s not pleased that she’s progressing so far. Talking baby Toby’s empty bottle to get more, goblin Beetleglum asks his king if it was Maria that gave him his name. He stands with the child, causing the other goblins in the room to recoil. “Why are you so interested in that story, little goblin?” The timid goblin says he just likes the detail in the story that Jareth has been telling. “How very ungoblinish of you.” Seeing that Sarah has passed the door, the king hands Toby to Beetleglum saying, “Whatever nonsense you put in (Toby’s) head in my labyrinth, mere truth often sinks without a trace…While meaning floats to the top.” Simon Spurrier’s tale then moves to the past where Maria has been kidnapped by a ship flying through the skies above the labyrinth, hefted by several hundred fairies. The heroine looks out a window of cell, stating she can’t be held by anyone against her will. The door to her cell is opened and Skubbin is pushed in. The reunion is brief, with Maria’s escape halted when the goblin knight reveals he has something in his possession that would make their escape easier. This leads to a comical and scary moment and the introduction of a new friend. The Owl King decides he must “cheat” in order to ensure he keep the woman’s child and contacts a familiar face in the real world. This new character is terrific and I wish had been in the film. I was pleased that Maria made a realization about the labyrinth and attempted to use that knowledge to help her on her way. If only it wasn’t for the Owl King cheating, as shown on the last page. This was a very fun read, with plenty of good hearted scares, and a smart protagonist. Overall grade: A

The art: The visuals in this issue are better than the previous installment’s. The artists are Daniel Bayliss with Irene Flores. I would love to know what Flores’s contributions are specifically are to the visuals because it’s leaving me constantly wondering. The line worth on the opening two pages are very thin, thinner than I recall the previous issues being. It looks fine, but it makes the characters, including the goblins, very light. It works on Jareth, but not on them. The first panel on the second page is too far from Jareth for him to have a strong impact on the reader and the frightened goblins even further. Better is Jareth and Beetleglum in the remaining panels, with each having a fair bit of detail in them. The reveal of the flying ship and fairies is good, with the tiny sprites looking perturbed at their labors. The establishment of where Maria is looks good and like the pull back in the final panel on 3 that shows she’s in a large, albeit empty, space. Skubbin’s entrance is good, but look at how much space is wasted in that first panel — the top third is useless to the reader. This would have allowed the other panel on the page to pull in closer to the characters to get Maria’s reaction. The action of the final three panels on Page 5 is great, with the characters emoting well. The reveal on 6 is great, with the action that follows it also strong. The characters and action increase on 7 and it’s terrific. 8 is a full-paged splash, but what is occurring is difficult to make out: did the character jump out, get thrown out, or get punched out? I can’t tell. The water work on 10 is excellence. The villain on the pages that follows looks excellent: slim and elegant, but with the visage of a monster. The warped entrance on 12 is great. The tiny characters on 14 are awesome; I wish they had been seen more because they look terrific. The top of 20 is a nice nightmarish settings that sets the appropriate tone before any dialogue is read. The last page of the issue is also a full-paged splash. It’s a creeper, but is hard to make out due to the coloring. Still, the artwork has improved over last issue. Overall grade: B+ 

The colors: Whites and blues are used very effectively to highlight the magic of the glass on the first two pages. These colors stand out strongly in the brown and tan setting. I like how Dan Jackson has Jareth’s eyes match these colors, tying him visually into the magic. Toby is the most noticeable character on these pages due to his stark white and red pajamas. The fairies are a delight in pink, whose colors delightfully don’t match their emotional states. Maria’s hair and dress continues to have her stand out on every page in the labyrinth. Page 8 is unfortunately too dark; it’s tough to make out the details in the art. I do like that the new character’s dialogue balloons are their own unique color, separating this individual from others of this realm. The bottom of 10 is flat out gorgeous, with a sunset beautiful. The blues that begin to be shown on the penultimate page are good teases of the action occurring on the final page. This is a good example of colors being used to foreshadow actions. Overall grade: A 

The letters: Jim Campbell creates the text for this issue which includes dialogue, Jareth’s unique speech, Toby’s baby noises, sounds, the new character’s unique speech, the Owl King’s unique speech, the unique (How many times can I use that word?) font of a character on the wall, and the tease for next issue. I am impressed with all the unique fonts that Campbell uses for so many characters. In doing so it makes these characters seem stronger or weaker than others. It also makes the reader “hear” the characters differently. I love it! There are a few sounds in this issue, with a rattle being my favorite. Campbell uses the text in visual ways to increase the reader’s experience. Overall grade: A

The final line: Maria encounters an old friend, finds a new ally, and makes a realization, while the Owl King begins to cheat. A mesmerizing issue that captures the tone of the film wonderfully while creating its own original path. The characters are smart, fun, and a bit scary and the visuals capture the magic of film. A fun reading experience. 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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