December 06, 2006

Revisitations: They're Not All Bad

This book is a nomination for the graphic novels category of the 2006 Cybil Awards.

I have to admit—when I first heard that I would be reading a continuation of the story that was started in the 1986 movie Labyrinth, my reaction was something like Oh, God, no. You see, I loved the movie Labyrinth. It brought to stunning life the visual creations of Jim Henson and Brian Froud, as well as feeding my unhealthy May-December crush on David Bowie.

When an already-existing fantasy world is revisited years (decades, now) later, with one of the major creators long-dead, it understandably causes some trepidation in the heart of the adoring fan. Sorry if it sounds a little harsh, but the movie was one of those cherished pre-teen experiences that I didn't want marred by some inferior fan-fic crapfest. At best, I felt it would be like the recently publicized new Rockymovie—a tale that had its day in the sun but was attempting a return to fame with elderly characters and a tired storyline. VERY fortunately, I was wrong about Jim Henson's Return to Labyrinth.

Although nothing can quite match the original creations and artwork of Henson and Froud, writer Jake Forbes and artist Chris Lie do a pretty fair job of bringing this fantastical tale back to life. It's much more lovingly crafted than I expected, both textually and visually, and the characters more appealing. The story picks up several years after the last one left off (and if you haven't seen the movie, minor spoiler alert). Toby, who was just the hapless baby brother in the movie, is now a teenager...perfectly normal, except for a bizarre and unwanted tendency for his wishes to come true. For he's being watched over by the Goblin King, Jareth, and now he's been lured into the Goblin realm by an anonymous impish thief who has stolen his homework (okay, so that part's pretty goofy).

Toby decides to find the Goblin King's castle to confront Jareth about the way he's been interfering in Toby's life. On his way through the treacherous realm, he's joined by a little goblin named Skub, a disgruntled faerie, and her hairy beast of a mount. In the meantime, there's a parallel story going on, whose significance has yet to be revealed in some future volume of the series (for yes, this is a series). A human girl named Moppet is mysteriously in the employ of the mayor of a Goblin city. Each day she disguises herself, and hopes to win the attentions of a handsome goblin knight. Why? We don't know. But when all are invited to a ball at the Goblin King's castle, things really start to get heated and the intrigue begins—for not everyone in the realm supports Jareth. The volume ends, of course, with a major cliffhanger.

For a revisited fantasy series, this was not bad. I generally don't approve of this sort of thing, but Return to Labyrinth comes off as a tribute and not a travesty. It wasn't perfect—specifically, I think the artwork could have been better, and could have relied less on Ben-Day dots or Zip-a-Tone or whatever it was for shading. But overall, it was an enjoyable trip back into an imaginative fantasy world.


Anonymous said...

Oh, okay. I'll take your word for it that this isn't a bad sequel/revisit. But OY! there is only ONE David Bowie, and only one Jim Henson/Brian Froud combo, and I would be scared seeing this, too. I will have to check it out, however...

Anonymous said...

Let me just reiterate that while it wasn't bad, it also wasn't great. It was...cute. You can borrow if you like, if I don't have to send it along.