Once upon a time, in a land of enchanted castles and magical elves and immortal dragons... the forces of darkness won and destroyed everything.
The survivors wander a post-apocalyptic wasteland, bands of looters and thieves and the odd attempt at restarting civilization with little but the dregs of the
magic that once flowed freely. Amid this ruin roves the nameless bard, astride a mutant (not to mention psychotic) "pentacorn." He seeks the means to rescue
his true love from a terrible demonic curse... but he himself is the first to admit that quests and happy endings were always empty fairy tales, even before
the world ended.
A post-apocalyptic Fairyland is an interesting concept. I wish I'd had more engaging characters (and maybe a less threadbare plot) to follow through it. The
bard (known as "Hm", his only answer when asked for a name) tries to thread the antihero needle of cynicism and determination laced with sarcasm, but just comes
across as a selfish jerk, making his dedication to his cursed wife feel out of character. At some point his pithy observations and commentary start sounding
like adolescent nihilistic whining rather than the voice of an older and justifiably jaded man. At times, the story feels jerky. There are some nice (if
grotesque) elements, but ultimately the parts just don't come together like they should.
When young Sarah regrets wishing that the goblins would take her baby brother Toby away, Jareth the Goblin King gives her thirteen hours to retrieve him from the
castle at the center of his vast, shifting Labyrinth - otherwise, the child will become a goblin. But this is not the first time a stolen baby has been sought by a
loved one. Jareth himself was once a human boy not unlike young Toby, and it was his mother Maria who braved the Labyrinth in search of him, defying the wicked Owl
King and the child's noble father, Lord Tyton.
Nostalgia's a hot commodity these days; I see graphic novel series revisiting The Dark Crystal and other favorites from childhood, plus there is a manga
tale about an older Toby returning to the labyrinth world (which I have not read, but seen at the library.) Given that, a Labyrinth graphic novel revival was
almost a given. This is not so much a retelling or a sequel as a prequel about Jareth, memorably played (and sung) by the late David Bowie in Henson's movie. Since I
have a fair bit of nostalgia tied up here (I still own and listen to the soundtrack - I am a child of the 80's, after all), it was with some trepidation that I
approached this title... and with some inevitable disappointment that I finish.
The framing story here supposedly occurs while Jareth watches Sarah make her way through the labyrinth; between him and the goblin Beetleglum, the tale of Jareth's own
childhood unfolds. There's an immediate issue here, as the graphic novel keeps reminding me of the movie source material, a comparison by which it can't help falling
short. It's also obvious that something went horribly wrong with Maria's journey, or Jareth wouldn't be the Goblin King in Sarah's time; at some point, I couldn't help
feeling toyed with on this account, especially as this is just Volume 1 of a longer arc and doesn't resolve anything. The Labyrinth itself is a remarkable and
imaginative place where nothing is as it seems, though the version encountered by Maria is different than the one Sarah found in the movie; there's some implication
that the place's aspect is at least partly in the eye of the beholder. Maria is not the impetuous, immature girl Sarah was at the start of her journey, but a determined
and desperate mother willing to move heaven and earth to find her son. Unfortunately, knowing that she fails can't help robbing the story of some tension. The artwork
is imaginative, but not quite up to the standard set by Jim Henson and Brian Froud in the film, though the characters definitely feel like they belong in the Labyrinth
I grew up knowing and loving. Between (too-frequent) cutaways to Jareth and Beetleglum, the story takes a while to get going, and seems to just be hitting a decent
stride by the time it ends, leaving me with mixed feelings.
On the one hand, I admit I'm a little curious about how Maria fails. On the other, if future installments are this riddled with interruptions (and keep reminding me,
again, of a movie so deeply rooted in my childhood that it can't help coloring my perception of tie-in material), I'm not sure how far out of my way I'll go to find