Jim Henson’s Labyrinth: Under The Spell #1
Jim Campbell (lettering), Michael Dialyns (writing/art), Sina Grace (writing), Rebekah Isaacs (cover), Laura Langston (colors), Boya Sun (art), S.M. Vidaurri (writing), Sarah Webb (art)
BOOM! Studios begins a brand-new series of tales about Jim Henson’s Labyrinth in Under the Spell #1, an anthology series that continues in the beautiful spirit of the Labyrinth universe. It’s a richly-rewarding and beautifully written set of short stories.
In “The Eternal Tournament,” written by S.M. Vidaurri and illustrated by Sarah Webb, Sir Didymus and Ambrosius gallantly pursue honor and find friendship with a young girl named Marielle during an archery tournament, in spite of Jareth’s idea of a prize being a year lived in servitude to him in the Bog of Eternal Stench. Marielle has won the tournament for ten years running, but Didymus is ready to change that. Little does he know about what she’s been through and why she’s so determined to win.
Written by Sina Grace and illustrated by Boya Sun, “En Guard!” follows an industrious Hoggle seeking to advance himself beyond the role of groundskeeper (and head fairy exterminator) of Jareth’s Labyrinth. He yearns for the respect guardhood would afford him, but finds his plans changed after a surprising pep talk from Jareth, of all beings.
And a clumsy, disaster-causing goblin named No! is cast off from his position in the Goblin Army due to his illicit love of rare books. The poor fellow finds his true calling as a traveling collector rescuing rare and lost tomes from terrible fates in Michael Dialyns’ “No!”
The Labyrinth anthology series BOOM! has been producing just gets better and better with every installment. Starting with last year’s anthology, it’s been treating us to new characters, to old favorites, and giving us little looks at how much the Labyrinth changes—or doesn’t change—over time. This is another example of that tradition. With beautifully drawn panels and carefully written stories, there’s not a dud in the bunch. Many readers will relate to No!’s spirited and entertaining adventure, and “The Eternal Tournament” is Hensonian storytelling at its best. “En Guard!” gives me the Hoggle backstory that I’ve been craving since watching the movie. The art is astonishing, particularly in “The Eternal Tournament,” which is breathtaking in its heavy inks. The sum of all of these parts are done well, and the new characters fit neatly and beautifully into the narrative without overwhelming it. I’d love a whole continuing story about Marielle’s life.
While each story does add a little something new to what we know about the characters involved, and introduces us interestingly to some new creatures, it falls short in a few more places. Most of the issues I have are small. Sometimes the quality of the art isn’t consistent throughout the issue, with thicker line art plaguing certain pages. But the biggest caveat I can give out is that Sarah again isn’t in this issue, in spite of her prominent front cover positioning.
I wish Boom! Studios would stop promoting Sarah and her place in the universe when the books’ stories rarely, if ever, include her as a character. There’s so much we could learn about her life after the movie or before it, and yet, she almost never figures into the stories they tell. That she remains MIA is a completely inexcusable editorial choice. I know I definitely want more of her, but I also understand that the series is intended to build up the world of the Labyrinth! Otherwise, Under The Spell #1 remains a premiere place to get more Labyrinth stories, and the variety and beauty of them will enthrall, even though there are a few missing features.