I wasn’t sure if I could write a review for the new Labyrinth comic from Boom! Studios because of the following reasons:
Labyrinth is one of my all-time favourite films. I saw it at the cinema when it was originally released and have then continued to watch it year after year. I recently re-watched it at the cinema with my own kids and I still love every moment of it.
Simon Spurrier is a writer at the top of his game, he has left me in awe on several occasions in recent years. Simply check out Cry Havok or The Spire to see the brilliance of his writing.
I adore Daniel Bayliss’ work whenever I see it. He has a bold, lyrical style which I find so easy to read.
And Fiona Staples has done the covers!
It’s difficult to come at this from an unbiased point of view; I’ve been sold on this before I’ve even opened the comic.
So, we can all assume I enjoyed this new Labyrinth comic. This is not going to come as news to anyone.
Some of the previous short stories that Boom! have released, more often than not in their Free Comic Book Day offering, have been pleasant and quick flights of fancy that made the reader wistful for the movie but very few had any real meat on their bones. Labyrinth: Coronation on the other hand is steeped in the lore of the Goblin world. In essence the comic is about Jareth’s life before becoming the Goblin King and this is journey that is told from the very beginning. Not wanting to give anything away but the central character is not the one that you would necessarily expect. This is a story of belonging and family and is beautifully told. It has a grandiose setting which is soon torn down as Maria, our heroine, is forced to face truths she has been running away from. Just like the movie, the story is an emotional journey for the central character and the similarities don’t stop there.
The first page of the comic is lifted directly from the film. It sets the scene and re-introduces the reader to the world, making it very clear who the story is going to be focusing on. But of course, this scene, with Sarah in the oubliette, has a great significance to the story. From this recognisable moment Spurrier draws comparisons with Maria’s experiences which have filtered through to Jareth. A layer of depth has been added to the characterisation of the Goblin King almost instantly, and we're only at issue 1.
Which leads me to Bayliss’ art; his bold style turns the visuals of the movie into a tale fit for a Sandman collection. His depiction of Jareth is the essence of the character as portrayed by David Bowie without the need to be an identical representation. Spurriers script captures the voice Bowie gave the character and relays this onto the page; Bayliss in turn draws a figure who is quintessentially The Goblin King and a touch reminiscent of Morpheus from the Sandman comics.
His panel compositions are fun and play with the theatricals of the character but also become simple and deliberate to focus the reader’s attention. Sweeping masquerade balls fade away to highlight characters’ interactions and the opulent high society halls become bleak, cold streets as the narrative tests the central characters.
My favourite affect that Bayliss uses is to squeeze the goblins into the gutters between panels. They stare in at the story, just like the puppets in the movie were framed in blackness to indicate they were elsewhere. Bayliss plays with the idea that they are outside, looking in, ready to breakthrough from one world to the next.
There are thrills and chills, excitement and adventure, romance and heart break, all beautifully illustrated within the first issue. The central characters are strong and have layers of depth which in turn leads the emotional narrative from scene to scene. The artwork hones these representations making the characters from the movie instantly recognisable and giving the new one’s their own personalities from the get go.
Labyrinth: Coronation is an ideal companion to the original film and a strong opening to a story. It promises to be a magical adventure with unexpected twists along the way. I know that by the end of this 12 issue run I will be watching the film with new appreciations for some of the characters.
A must read for anyone who has seen the movie or has an interest in magical romantic tales.
But then, I am a little bit biased.
Jim Henson’s Labyrinth: Coronation
Written by Simon Spurrier
Art by Daniel Bayliss
Published by Boom! Studios
And check out those covers... Especially this alternative cover (below) by the amazing Bill Sienkiewicz