JIM HENSON’S LABYRINTH #2 / Writer: Simon Spurrier / Artist: Daniel Bayliss/ Letterer : Jim Campbell / Publisher: BOOM! Studios/ March 28, 2018
Maybe you won’t be shocked to learn that Labyrinth is one of my favourite movies ever, given that I’m a thirty something white nerd lady, but it is. I’d known there were a couple of comic books spin-offs, but I had to admit, I didn’t want to read them in case they were bad and some how tainted the movie with their badness. Thankfully, this is definitely not the case with Labyrinth: Coronation, though it does possibly throw out a head-canon about Jareth I had based on the music video for Underground, but that’s neither here nor there.
Anyway, this is both a prequel and a… uh, mid-quel, since its Jareth essentially telling his origin story to baby Toby during the events of the movie. We see the previous King before Jareth- a monstrous owl figure- and his mother, Maria. She had been the lover of a British nobleman based in Venice who was forced to flee as war started to spread across Europe, callously leaving her and their infant son to a group of… uh, friends, for want of a better term. From there, Maria makes her way to the Labyrinth and is forced to traverse it to save her son.
What’s interesting about this set up is- we kind of know how it ends and given what the callous and manipulative nature of the Labyrinth’s inhabitants, it’s a far darker and tragic spin on the story… or at least, it is so far. It’s made clear from the start we cannot rely on the narrator- Jareth is selfish and capricious, we know that. So seeing him unfavorably compare the two tales of Maria and Sarah is very telling of what he thinks of them- maybe what he thinks of women in general- and how he is trying to justify what he is doing to Sarah. It is a very interesting path to take and Simon Spurrier (who has also written for the Dark Crystal) includes reminders in the story that neither Jareth the narrator nor the Labyrinth itself can be trusted. They are there to confuse and to ultimately break a human so utterly that they are forced to give up something as important as their own child. What happens to Maria then?
Honestly, I was surprised how good this was- not the just the writing, but the art is also intriguing. It, like any property that has its roots in a movie, has to capture the likeness of the characters whilst not looking to stilted or flat. Daniel Bayliss manages to do this whilst also making the world look so dynamic and gorgeous I wish I could stick my whole face in it. The bright depiction of the real world, in eighteenth century Venice, contrasts with the almost dirty orange dankness of the Labyrinth, which has more of a Venetian theatre influence than the movie’s version. It creeps into the real world in a far more sinister way than it did in the movie as well- but again, that might only be because you might be able to guess where this is going. The goblins themselves are clearly those of Brian Froud and Jim Henson, but still distinctly Bayliss’ as well. I’d say the depiction of Jareth is a bit… off. Is the nose slightly too point or is it just me? It is a nice touch to make Jareth’s father (?) look almost exactly like him, if only because it makes you long wistfully to see David Bowie dressed in Venetian finery again.Also, whoever decided to bring in Fiona Staples as the cover artist needs a promotion because her soft yet compelling lines and colours are perfectly suited to Labyrinth.
So, hopefully I’ve given you enough reason to read this, especially if you love the movie. The series so far is an intriguing take on Jareth the Goblin King and the world of the Labyrinth- I’d advise you to check this out as soon as humanly possible. The art is lovely, the story is making an apparently forgone conclusion fascinating. That’s no mean feat, cannot wait for issue 3!
Verdict: 4.5 out of 5