29th Dec2020

‘Jim Henson’s Labyrinth: Masquerade #1’ Review

by Dean Fuller

Written by Lara Elena Donnelly | Art by Various | Published by Boom Studios

Being honest, I had no idea that comics based on Jim Henson’s properties was a thing. Sure, I know about the various attempts at Muppet related stuff, but not much else. When this book showed up in my every-other-day scroll through releases, I had a little delve. Sure enough, Boom! have been putting out books based on Dark Crystal and Fraggles among others, solid baby boomer properties I guess, but not ones I would think naturals for comics. Is there a big demand out there? I guess only Boom! knows. That being said, I am a huge fan of Jim Henson, I think he’s up there with the Stan Lee’s and Walt Disney’s of this world, and anything that gives him and his work more exposure is alright by me.

So, Labyrinth. For those who don’t know, this was a Jim Henson film from 1986, and even for the 1980’s was a very odd one. At times dark and creepy, it also featured a scenery chewing performance from David Bowie as Jareth, the Goblin King, among a cast made up mainly of puppets and animatronics. It’s certainly unique, with nothing like it then or since. I really like it, but as an Eighties film, and Henson, fan I would wouldn’t I. It’s a harder sell to others, as I discovered by trying to get my kids to watch it. Let’s just say they’ll be sticking to Back to the Future for their retro fix. So, why this one-shot? Wisely scripter Donnelly has not tried to prequel or sequel a classic, though not sure if the licence would even allow that, and has instead gone for something that adds to the original film without changing any of the continuity.

Donnelly has chosen to focus on the Masquerade Ball from the film, one of the most memorable sequences. Our heroine, Sarah (played by a young Jennifer Connelly in the film), has bitten into a poison pear and finds herself in a ballroom with the Goblin King and his followers. It’s all very nutty, with fantastic outfits and an original Bowie song playing. Sarah manages to drag herself out of this, be it an illusion, hallucination, or actual event. This story parallels that, opening with a lowly goblin called Schemer, bored with his lot doing low level jobs hidden away behind the scenes. That is, until the Goblin King himself turns up. He’s preparing throw a grand masquerade, and wants Schemer to get everything ready.

Schemer’s seemingly main job is to bring a mannequin to life, and to join the party which Jareth is throwing for Sarah. The mannequin is confused, but soon realises the ball is full of people seemingly trapped there, not sure who they are either. Things take a darker turn when Sarah breaks free, as per the film, by smashing the mirrors, which also throws the mannequin and Schemer out into the junkyard, a huge sprawling wasteland. As they travel, the mannequin tries to remember who she is, encountering along the way the wayward ones, humans who have got lost in the labyrinth and have been trapped in there ever since. The story then develops into what it really is, a quest for identity, a recognition of mistakes, and a hope for redemption. Oh, and the importance of family, the same message the film had. A name is remembered, and like Sarah, our mannequin, Nettie, escapes back to the real world and a second chance.

Overall, this was probably slightly better than average. Despite obviously trading on the film as its setup, not much of that atmosphere makes it into the book. The Goblin King and Sarah are firmly background characters, and while the Masquerade Ball is nicely done, it’s actually just a small part of the book. The main characters are nice enough, but some of the storytelling and dialogue is a little too heavy handed. Needs a bit more of the Henson ‘feel’ in there. The art and colours are nice without being anything more, and ultimately there was not enough story for both the page count and the cost.

A curio of sorts, but not essential for any but the most ardent Henson fan.

***1/2 3.5/5


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