Review: Expanding The World With THE POWER OF THE DARK CRYSTAL Volume 1

FIRST IMPRESSION

A beautiful continuation of a much loved children's movie. Lacking the the dark aesthetic of the original doesn't detract from the engaging story and makes it easier for new fans to get on board.
Writing/Story
Pencils/Inks
Colors
Lettering
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The Power of the Dark Crystal Volume 1 collects the first third of the magical journey into a familiar world wrought with new dangers. Drawing on inspiration from the much loved children’s film of the 1980’s, the collection is a pleasure for fans as well as those new to the franchise.

If you have a little extra cash left over from Christmas, then you can treat yourself to one of a number of trade collections that are being released this week. One of the most interesting, if you haven’t already read it in the monthly format, is BOOM! Studios The Power of the Dark Crystal. This is especially relevant as Netflix has started to leak out details of their upcoming prequel TV series based on the 1982 Jim Henson Movie.

The Power of the Dark Crystal
Cover Art for The Power of the Dark Crystal Vol 1

The Story

For those who don’t know, The Power of the Dark Crystal is loosely based on a script written for an unproduced sequel to the original movie. The planned movie had a number of problems in pre-production and never really got off the ground, However, BOOM! Studios have the publishing rights to the franchise and over the years have put out a number of short stories set in the Dark Crystal universe.

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The Power of the Dark Crystal, helmed by Simon Spurrier (The Dreaming and Motherlands), Kelly and Nichole Matthews (Lumberjanes/Gotham Academy), and Jim Campbell, is set 100 years after the Great Crystal was healed and Thra began to prosper. The glowing light of the Great Crystal was once more allowed to heal the land, free of interference from the Skeksis and Mystics.

Into this seemingly idyllic world a Fireling springs, searching for a way to save her home. In her wake is chaos and fear. Aughra, the sage and possibly most entertaining character from the movie, has seen the danger that the Fireling represents and she tries to warn those in power.

The old world and the new are about to be tested by the appearance of this frightened child and the fate of the Great Crystal, and Thra itself, is in the balance.

The Power of the Dark Crystal Vol 1
Page Splash from The Power of the Dark Crystal

The Writing/Art

This first softcover volume collects the first 4 issues of the 12 issue run. It successfully introduces all of the characters and the story arc, bringing back most of the characters that people will recognise from the film but using an original character as a way into the world of Thra. This is a clever technique from Spurrier, as it allows readers unfamiliar with the franchise to become engrossed without feeling that they are apart from the narrative. There is nothing worse when reading a comic to feel as though everyone else knows what is going on but you don’t.

You also have Aughra as a central character, who is neither hero or villain, but an observer who acts as storyteller for the narrative. She allows the natural progression of the story to unfold without having to constantly explain the situation in an info-dump way.

The Power of the Dark Crystal reads like a movie, in the best possible way. It embraces its origins, and Spurrier doesn’t shy away from the fact that this was originally going to be a sequel movie.  In fact, he revels in it, giving the scenes a larger than life scope which encompasses the world around the characters. There is a great sense of myths being created; this is reflected in the opening monologue and through the dramatic set pieces that follow.

The Matthews Sisters’ artwork embraces the magical elements of the world in which the Dark Crystal is set. It may be a little jarring for anyone expecting the same, dark aesthetic of the movie created by Brian Froud‘s outstanding design because the Matthews Sisters have a much smoother, fluid art style. Everything has a cleanness to it, a delicate touch which highlights the sensibilities of the characters much better than a gritty, dark palette would.  The coloring is beautiful as it contrasts the two worlds, above and below Thra, and visually pits the different characters against each other.

Where the script is mythical in tone, the artwork is lyrical.

This method of narrative style can, at times, lead to some clichéd scenes and awkward character development, but due to the combination of tight script work and mesmerizing art work, these moments are easy to overlook, especially when read in a collection like this. It is difficult to read just a few pages of this collection; once opened, the chances of closing this book before the end are slim and the parts your will remember and think of later are not the cheesy plot points or simple character decisions, it is the sense of wonder and beauty.

The Power of the Dark Crystal
The Power of the Dark Crystal Page Art

Conclusion

As an introduction to the Dark Crystal you can’t ask for a better book. The story is fresh, exciting and packed with larger than life, colourful characters. The artwork is expressive and beautiful to behold, although at times it does lack depth. This is especially noticeable in some of the splash pages where the full page shot has an emptiness to it. Fans of the original film and new readers wanting an expanded universe of characters will find something to love in The Power of the Dark Crystal. In the hands of Simon Spurrier, a master of creating fantasy worlds, the Dark Crystal franchise can only get larger and more mythic in quality.

Darryll Robson
Darryll Robsonhttp://www.comiccutdown.com
Comic book reader, reviewer and critic. Waiting patiently for the day they announce 'Doctor Who on The Planet of the Apes'.

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