Quick – what do you love about the The Dark Crystal?
Common answers include the generally stunning visuals, specific cool elements like the Garthim and the Landstriders, and supporting characters like Aughra, Fizzgig, or the Chamberlain Skeksis. The movie creates an intriguing world, and a lot of people – myself included – would love to see it explored further.
Common answers do not include the story, which everyone* agrees is boring, or Jen and Kira, the lead characters who everyone* also agrees are boring. The story is a basic hero’s journey, with Jen receiving a task (restore the Dark Crystal), encountering some problems, and then finally doing the thing. His primary character traits are playing a flute, acting real nervous about his quest for a while, and chuckling occasionally. Kira, meanwhile, has wings and giggles instead of chuckling, so that’s something I suppose.
(*If you don’t think those elements are boring, I have to assume that The Dark Crystal is the only work of fiction you’ve ever seen or read or heard about.)
So the story and the Gelflings are everyone’s least favorite things about The Dark Crystal, but here we have BOOM! Studios/Archaia’s The Power of the Dark Crystal, a comic book sequel that doubles down on those elements. Our hero is a young Fireling – a species exactly like Gelflings except on fire – and our story is that she wants to crack the Dark Crystal back open to save her people.
Yep. They’re gonna break the Dark Crystal instead of restoring it. The exact opposite of what happened last time. At the Jim Henson Company in 2017, this is what passes for creativity.
This comic is set 100 years after the events of the movie, and the Gelflings have developed a Time-Lords-in-Funny-Hats style of government. Consequently, much of the second issue is spent on the chamber floor, with various officials arguing about whether or not Firelings are bad, and whether or not the young Gelfling she bonds with is a troublemaker. Meanwhile, the now-elderly, still personality-less Jen and Kira are in charge of the government.
None of this is interesting at all, but it would be fine if the book had better art.
Like I said, the visuals are the most stunning thing about the movie. For this comic to succeed, the art needed to really be a knockout. Archaia has gotten that on Henson properties before, with artists like Ramon K. Perez (on Tale of Sand) and Roger Langridge (on Musical Monsters of Turkey Hollow). Those books are visual delights, and I’m proud to have them on my shelf alongside Jim Henson’s TV and film work.
Unfortunately, the art here just doesn’t measure up. Artists Kelly and Nicole Matthews are certainly competent. I never had any trouble following the story. But “fine” isn’t good enough for a franchise renowned entirely for its striking images.
The comic has a plastic-y look that makes all of the characters look vaguely like wax figures frozen in time. There’s no sense of dynamism or movement to any of the visuals. It’s a bunch of static drawings, and not very memorable ones.
Most frustratingly, every time writer Simon Spurrier teases a previously-unknown species or area, the art goes out of its way to avoid showing it. Over and over, we get wide shots that look like generic landscapes. This is a bizarre choice to me, because it makes all of these areas look interchangeable and it makes the world seem that much smaller.
Look, nothing about Power of the Dark Crystal is terrible. But nothing about it is very good either, and there’s no reason for it. It’s a thoroughly mediocre comic book that only exists because people remember a thing from the 80s. It certainly isn’t worth your money or your time.
Click here to remember how cute those Podlings were on the Tough Pigs Forum.
by Anthony Strand