REVIEW – Labyrinth: Coronation #3 and #4

Published: June 20, 2018
Categories: Feature, Reviews

Something that made Showtime’s
The Affair so intriguing when it was first released was how its storytelling technique highlighted how everyone’s version of the same story is different. Depending on which character’s perspective we were seeing, the audience would see the exact same scene play out differently. Someone who appeared to be the hero in one version seemed to be the antagonist in another. Even the dialogue was different. It became evident that a narrator could never be completely trusted; one’s perspective of how something occurred is colored by their own emotions and experiences.

While the writers of The Affair seem to have largely abandoned that lesson about narration, it is alive and well in Archaia’s comic book series Jim Henson’s Labyrinth: Coronation. Not only does Beetleglum the goblin warn us in a prior issue that things didn’t happen quite as Jareth presents them, but in issue No. 4, Jareth himself admits, “…in my Labyrinth, mere truth often sinks without a trace…while meaning floats to the top.” Regardless of whether all the details of his story are true, what’s most salient as far as Jareth is concerned is the essence of his tale.

And the essence of these issues are intriguing indeed! Without spoiling them, I’ll say that we discover just how shrewd a thinker our heroine Maria is. Her strength of character and quick-wittedness is evident throughout these issues and I am definitely eager to see what missteps she will inevitably make along the way, ultimately leading to baby Jareth becoming the Goblin King. One thing’s for sure: this gal ain’t going down without a fight.

Thanks to Jareth’s trusty crystal ball, the Labyrinth: Coronation creative team is able to seamlessly weave in parts of the film, helping orient the reader within the timeline. In these issues we see brief depictions of Sarah’s interactions with Hoggle, Sir Didymus, the knockers, and Ludo. We also see Jareth confronting Hoggle about helping Sarah. The imagery and quotes in the original scenes are so memorable they only require a simple snapshot (a peach in Hoggle’s hand, for example) or a sound bite (“…the way forward… is sometimes… the way back…”) in order for a Labyrinth fan to immediately identify what is happening in Sarah’s story as we are simultaneously learning more about the tale of Jareth’s parents.

It’s interesting to note that the scene with the knockers takes place about halfway through the movie, yet we are not even one-third of the way into the comic series when it appears at the beginning of issue 4. I’m guessing the pace is being dictated in part by the parallels between what’s happening in Maria and Sarah’s stories: In these issues, the aspiring villain Skubbin, like Hoggle, has a similar internal crisis about whether or not it is appropriate (and in character) for him to be helping his new human friend.

A major benefit of a comic adaptation is that its story is not bound by the production challenges associated with making a film. These Coronation issues feature a nifty ship that is strung along by fairies through the sky, which would have been a difficult effect to achieve in a movie in 1986. Another addition is a character made up of tangled rose vines. Although it has arms and legs, without a face or mouth, it is decidedly un-Henson-like in appearance. I consider moving mouths to be a hallmark of Henson puppet design–even when the characters are not fully humanoid (think the Helping Hands in the the movie version or even the Trash Heap in Fraggle Rock). What the rose bush lacks in design, however, it makes up for in character. The “Tangle,” as Maria refers to it, has hilarious speech patterns and will quickly become one of your favorite characters in the series.

As a casual, occasional comic book consumer (I read on average one full series or run per year), I found some elements of these issues confusing at times. When a creative team knows that their issues are eventually going to be collected into a single trade paperback collection, it’s easy for them to overlook some elements that might be helpful to the less comic book-literate readers.

In a series that jumps between multiple locations during two time periods, it would have been helpful if certain panels included captions to establish where and when the action takes place. I also would have appreciated a quick recap on the credits page of each issue, as I often found myself flipping back to the previous issues, despite the fact that I was reading them in closer succession than those who are reading them as they are released once a month. Just a quick reminder of what’s happened up to now (“Previously, Maria went into the Labyrinth to rescue her baby, and she met a goblin named Skubbin…”) would be nice.


In issue 4, there’s also an instance where two consecutive dialogue boxes are spoken by completely different characters, but it’s not immediately apparent. And in issue 3, there’s a sequence in which the arrangement of panels on the page makes it unclear what order the panels go in. You comic-reading pros will likely have a more seamless experience than I did, but considering that at least some of the comic’s audience will be fans of the movie who don’t necessarily read comics often, I think that Archaia and the creative team could stand to make the series a bit more accessible. I want to read about the Labyrinth, not get lost in it myself!

Overall though, reading Labyrinth: a Coronation is a really fun experience. The story is intriguing, the characters compelling, the artwork engaging and the dialogue gripping– especially when the OG, owl-like Goblin King refers to a baby as “vile larva.” I’ll have to remember that one the next time I encounter a noisy baby on the subway.

Labyrinth: Coronation issues 1-4 are out now! Check your local comic book shop, or get the digital editions from Comixology or Amazon! Issue 5 will be released on July 25!

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by Staci Rosen

Tagged:comics | Labyrinth

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