Review – Jim Henson’s Labyrinth: Coronation #1 (BOOM! Studios)

Publisher: BOOM! Studios (Archaia imprint)
Writer: Si Spurrier
Artwork: Daniel Bayliss, Dan Jackson (colours), Jim Campbell (lettering)
Release Date: 28th February 2018

For me, Jim Henson’s Labyrinth always seemed like a movie that did absolutely everything it needed to the first time around, launching itself into well-deserved cult classic status and thankfully remaining largely immune to the world of spin-offs, prequels and reboots.

That said, BOOM! Studios’ 2017 Labyrinth special – a collection of short stories to celebrate the various characters and creatures from the movie’s world – was actually pretty damn good, which is why I’m greeting this upcoming “origin” series from Si Spurrier and Daniel Bayliss with cautious optimism instead of immediately rushing out to grab my trusty pitchfork.

This first issue sees Jareth, everyone’s favourite Goblin King, regaling baby Toby with a story of his own during a brief interlude from the events of the movie.  He whisks us away to 18th century Venice where a young noble couple, seemingly happy and in love, face troubles of their own when the truth about the Lord’s scandalous past finally catch up with them… and their infant child.

The insinuation of just how this story plays into Jareth’s own life is so obvious that even a goblin could pick up on it, but as Jareth himself says, “sometimes a child’s just a thing.  The real story belongs to those who love it”.  And that’s exactly what it looks like we’re going to get here, a story with strong parallels to the Labyrinth movie with a stolen baby and a young woman doing whatever she has to in order to rescue him.

I’ll confess, I’m only really familiar with Bayliss from his work on BOOM!’s WWE books and his turn alongside Ryan Ferrier on Kennel Block Blues, but he shows an impressively gentle touch here in bringing both Venice and the crazy world of Henson’s Labyrinth to life, and does so without a superkick or cartoon dog in sight.

There are also some enjoyable echoes to the way the goblins encouraged Sarah to wish baby Toby away in the movie, lurking in the shadows and the gutters between the panels here as they try to urge young Lord Tyton to make a similar wish.  Bayliss does a stellar job of bringing these scenes to life, with colourist Dan Jackson darkening his otherwise restrained palette to accentuate the sense of tension and foreboding.

It’s an interesting attempt to expand on the already established lore, and while there are likely to be those who will baulk at the very idea of tampering with such a beloved movie, Spurrier and Bayliss actually do a pretty faithful and respectful job here.  It really feels like both creators are massive fans of the source material, and whether that’s actually the case or not, there’s still a tremendous amount of authenticity and affection here as the pair stay true to the story’s cinematic roots while gently opening the curtain just a little wider.

Ultimately, while it’s perhaps a little too early to tell exactly how this series is going to unfold, this first issue goes a long way towards allaying any concerns that die-hard Labyrinth fans may have had.  Quite whether we need to know more about Jareth’s origin is a separate question, but it’s clear from this opening chapter that Spurrier and Bayliss are treating the source material with the respect it deserves, and this new series does an impressive job of capturing the charm, humour and all-ages fantasy that made the 1986 movie such a well-loved classic.

Rating: 4/5.

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ceejThe writer of this piece was: Craig Neilson-Adams (aka Ceej)
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