In Review: Jim Henson’s The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance #1

A good start to a story with some very sketchy visuals.

The covers: Five frontpieces for fans to find on this first issue from Thra’s past. The Regular cover by Mona Fiden features Maurdra Vala in the lower center sitting upon her throne. Behind her, looking to the right, is Ordon, the warrior of this issue. On the left is a podling holding up a spoon with joy. Yeah, I don’t know why that little guy is there either. The throne takes the shape of a jewel that has at the top an urRu facing left and a Skeksis facing right. I like this, but the colors are drab. The Variant cover by Kevin Tong features a split illustration showing the surface and interior of Thra. The top has a brightly colored foliage, featuring a stunningly pink plant. Underground, blue light illuminates everything, including a Gelfling that’s getting something important from a flower. Beautiful cover with the colors being extraordinary. Kelly and Nichole Matthews created the Preorder Connecting cover. This shows a wall featuring carvings of the characters of this series. In the center are three Gelflings surrounded by events that occur in this issue. Below them is a monstrous Arathim. The coloring on this makes it appear that the ceiling has been damaged, as light only shines on part of this artwork. The One-Per-Store “Thank You” Variant cover by NETFLIX features a Skeksis hand holding a piece of the Dark Crystal. The gem contains the three faces of the trio of Gelflings from the television series The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance. It’s very cool. The final cover is the Unlocked Retailer Variant cover by Christian Ward. This features a gigantic Skesis grasping the Dark Crystal, which sparks orange and violet energy. This is neat cover, with the character looking Galactus-like. Overall grades: Regular B-, Tong Variant A-, Preorder Connecting cover A, One-Per-Store “Thank You” Variant A, and Unlocked Retailer Variant A-

The story: This tale that’s set before The Age of Resistance is titled “The Quest for the Dual Glaive” and was conceived by Jeffrey Addiss & Will Matthews and written by Nicole Andelfinger. In Stone-In-The-Wood a villager screams as several Arathim attack. The shelled monsters kills several Gelflings with one survivor witnessing one of the creatures larger than others and speaking. “TAKINGTOOLONG! FEED! FEED! GAIN YOUR STRENGTH! GELFLINGS ARE BAD FOR THE STOMACH! SHUSH WE’LL GET THERE SOON ENOUGH! TO THE HOME HEARTH AND BEYOND…” The survivor realizes he must warn Maudra Vala. Meanwhile, far from this horror, a Gelfling yields to Ordon, the best warrior among their clan. He is teaching them to fight the Arathim if they ever return. Witnessing this contest is a Skeksis who offers the fighter a place in the guard at the Crystal Palace. Ordon isn’t sure if he’s worthy of the position, but the offer stands. With the leaving of the Skeksis, the bloody survivor arrives asking to be taken to Maudra Vala. He relates what’s occurred and she must decide what’s to be done to battle this onslaught led by the Ascendancy, a merging of many Arathim. The Advisor states that a powerful weapon should stop the creatures, the Dual Glaive. It’s located in the Caves of Grot. Naturally, Ordon volunteers to go, as does Vala’s daughter Fara. She’s refused from helping Ordon because of her age. What do you think she does? Yeah, she does that. This was an entertaining read, but there aren’t any surprises as it’s setting up the next three chapters of this tale. I like the characters, the quest, and the possibilities this holds. I’ll be back for more. Overall grade: B+

The art: As the issue progressed, I found myself enjoying Matias Basla’s artwork less and less. Much of the artwork is suggested through shapes, rather than completed images. For example, the first panel shows the small village that’s about to fall to the Arathim. The buildings and foliage are outlines, rather than detailed structures. This holds true in the next panel with the home and field in the distance using lines that don’t connect all the time to create a full structure. The full reveal of the Arathim is terrific, with it looking terrifying. However, what happened to the Gelfling’s feet? I like the swarm of creatures that ends the page and the tiny panel that shows the screams of warning from the character. Yet, with a turn of the page what should have been a scene of horror has become outlines of characters wholly dependent on the colorist to separate the characters from the setting. Ordon is outstanding when he first appears, but the third panel on Page 3 has him and the characters nearby become engulfed in a fog that makes all look blurry because the image isn’t complete. Things improve with the final two panels as Basla has pulled in closer to the characters. That seems to be the rule with the visuals on this book: when the characters are close to the reader they look great and when shown from a distant they become rough outlines. This lack of details loses what there are by the colors at times, such as the second panel on 4 and the first panel on 5. The last panel on 6 should have a lot of emotional punch, put it loses what could have been a tremendous moment with the character lost in a lackluster illustration. Much better are the close-ups of the characters on 7. The first panel on 10 would have been an excellent place to show magic in action, but its sketchy look lessens the moment. From Page 17 on the backgrounds become slim to none, with the colors creating the majority of the image. The creature that Ordon rides upon looks like a last minute sketch. The final page is a full-paged splash that is better than the previous pages, but again lacks details for this epic story. And what happened to the creature’s feet? I’ll be back next month, but I’m hoping the visuals have tightened up. Overall grade: C-

The colors: Miguel Muerto does a job that matches the visuals of this issue. The opening panel shows the beauty of Stone-In-The-Wood on Thra. The sunrise is terrific. Notice how colors tip off the reader to trouble in the second panel. The reveal of the Arathim has the creature look like a violet stain against the warm rural light greens and yellows. I like that the creatures have red eyes and this red is intensified around the Gelfling’s yell. Rather than drown the art in reds for the slaughter, Muerto uses oranges, giving the scene an even more nightmarish feel. I like the rural colors that return when the story shifts to Ordon, though I have to wonder if it’s fall in this location, because there are no bright colors to speak of. The top panel on 5 is just too dark; it’s hard to make out the artwork in this panel which should have been jaw-dropping. The interior of Maudra Vala’s quarters are the expected browns and tans, but couldn’t there have been a splash of color anywhere? Even the blues used to reveal the magical weapon are dulled. Colors finally go bright on Page 17’s first panel and the foliage becomes a healthy green. Sadly, a turn of the page shows the background has disappeared, forcing Muerto to create it with his colors, and he goes passive pinks and violets. The final page has the brightest colors of the book, but it would have been so much nicer to have seen such vividness earlier. Overall grade: C

The letters: Jim Campbell is the letterer who creates this issue’s introduction, scene setting, sounds, dialogue, yells, Ascendancy speech, Skeksis’ dialogue, and the three word tease for next issue. I really like the text in the first panel of this book, looking exactly as one would want a fantasy tale’s text to be. The sounds in this book are few, but look good, with the opening SCREEEEEEE on the first page outstanding. I like that the Ascendancy’s dialogue looks like a madman’s, which is a perfect match for this character. The Skeksis has a very flowing font for his speech, giving it the air of something incredibly old. The three word tease for next issue looks as though it comes from a fairy tale, matching the tone of this book. I’m hoping future issues will allow Campbell more opportunities to show his skill. Overall grade: A-

The final line: A good start to a story with some very sketchy visuals. A quest is begun and I’m looking forward to where it’s going. I’m not thrilled by the unfinished look to the artwork and colors that come off as very bland. I’m hoping the visuals improve as this goes on, otherwise they could mar the unfolding story. Overall grade: C+

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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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