Different Pathways in Jim Henson’s Labyrinth: Shortcuts

Jim Henson’s Labyrinth: Shortcuts

Edited by Cameron Chittock and Sierra Hahn; Assistant Editor: Gavin Gronenthal; Cover Art: Derek Kirk Kim
Boom! Studios/Archaia
September, 2018

I grew up loving Labyrinth more than I love oxygen. When I was six, I wanted to be Sarah Williams, a heavy reader with a dramatic streak claiming my independence from the pouty, glowering presence of Jareth the Goblin King. Its themes about growing up while keeping the spark of kindness, friendship, and childish silliness alive spoke to me. Boom! Studios managed to make those old feelings of enchantment return to me immediately with its brand-new collection of Labyrinth short comics, one of several collections celebrating both Labyrinth’s 30th anniversary and their new comics collection featuring Jareth and his baddies. The stories are vast, wide-ranging, and celebrate all of the different creatures, stories, styles, and ways in which Sarah Williams’ world still enchants its readers.

Labyrinth: Shortcuts contains everything, from Sir Diddymus teaching Ludo the proper way to fish, to a serious examination of goblin society, to adventuring goblins lost in the Bog of Eternal Stench, who learn that the most important thing to keep in sight is one another, to a fracas over the beheaded body of Humongous. It’s a chocolate box of delights. Nearly every character in the movie gets a little bit of shine here, though there are two notable, glaring exceptions I’ll talk about below.

There isn’t a single story I disliked in the whole volume, which says something, I think. If pressed to pick a favorite, artwise Jared Cullum’s lush watercolors in “The Right Steed for the Right Deed” (written by Adam Smith and lettered by Jim Campbell) jumped out at me as visually delightful and instantly memorable, though Cory Godbey’s more sketchy approach and Gustavo Duarte’s more cartoony takes were also a visual delight. Writingwise, “A Cup of Tea?” (written and illustrated by Katie Cook, colored by Heather Breckel, lettered by Nathan Pride), “The Right Steed for the Right Deed,” and  “A Friend in Need” (written and illustrated by Brandon Dayton, colored by Joana Lafuente) all made me aww out loud, as they provided adorable moments of friendship and affection between the characters (or in Ludo’s case, affection between himself and several sentient rocks). Shinjee’s struggle to be seen and heard in “Humongous Two” (with Jonathan Case writing, Daniel Bayliss illustrating, Jen Hickman coloring, and Warren Montgomery lettering) was rousing. They all caused me to grin. Kids of all ages are going to love this volume, and they won’t need to have much expertise in the movie to do it.

My biggest complaint about the collection is that there isn’t much Sarah in it at all. She appears exactly once, and then as a reflective image conjured by Jareth. This is a definite deficit in the storytelling, and while I appreciated the collection’s focus on the creatures of Labyrinth, I would’ve loved to see something directly dealing with her presence or lack thereof. There are six stories about Ludo. I love him, but I would have appreciated some extra variety thrown in, especially an appearance by our heroine! Also there was very, very little Hoggle. Just a single story featured him! I hope a future volume will feature more of his grouse like cowardice.

Even still, Labyrinth: Shortcuts was a beautiful reading experience. I devoured it happily in a single afternoon and craved more. It was such a pleasure to read and made me so incredibly happy.