Jim Henson's Legends Of The Dark Crystal Volume 1: The Garthim Wars

Distributor:  Tokyopop

Authors:  Barbara Randall Kesel, Heidi Arnhold & Max Kim

Suggested Retail Price (SRP):  £6.99

Number of Pages:  192

ISBN:  978-1598167016

Reviewed:  18th November 2009

Reviewer:  Andy Milford


Before I begin this I have to add a major disclaimer that could quite possibly affect the fairness of this review but will add to its entertainment.  As a dire-hard fan of the original 1982 film I had high expectations 2 years back when I heard that Tokyopop were making accompanying manga to coincide with titles such as this and Labyrinth.  But unsurprisingly I had dubious expectations knowing that films such as this provide a great deal of intimacy for their now older audience.

Ok so starting from the top and working my way down a list I have next to me of points I want to mention the blurb provides a stock account of the story or fun loving people’s world turned upside down, insurmountable odds blah blah blah: ‘Celebrate Jim Henson’s visionary fantasy classic by returning once again to the world of Gelflings, Mystics, and Skeksis in this exciting manga prequel!’  This is about as exciting as watching paint dry, but to a ten year old I suppose I have to give them credit for pandering to their tastes.  The cover art is in stark contrast to the genius work of Brian Froud the original concept artist, but that isn’t to say that the artwork is of poor quality.  It, much like most Tokyopop manga, suffers from a lack of decent shading effects and character detail leaving a blocky and unfinished quality that contrasts Froud’s original designs.  Ok granted this is manga and requires a level of simplicity but the cover art could go the distance if given a chance.

Inside the majority of the manga provides a rounded but not well planned out plot, which muddles along at a fairly fast pace common to most filler manga that Tokyopop insist on slipping in every now and again to drive up sales.  The story itself follows a young Gelfling (an elf-like creature) named Lahr see his village destroyed whilst he herds what can only be described as moss covered Snorlax with his porcupine-dog thing onomatopoeically named ‘Whouf’ (creative or what?).  After which he bumps into another Gelfling (this time a girl) and they have a bit of a conversation then decide to help some people out in neighbouring villages.  So a battle ensues, somebody dies (spoilers I know but really not necessary to put a warning- it’s totally predictable) and then the standard ‘battle won- war just beginning’ tag line can sum up the end.  This is somewhat congenital for most fantasy stories that are tagged as prequels but with the movie in mind hopes that something like this could have been treated with a little more inventiveness as opposed to a stock story scenario that leads to an anticlimactic conclusion.

Ok so far I have been pretty damning of it and rightly so.  This prequel does not do Henson’s film any kind of justice even if it is volume 1 (which to god I hope stays that way) in so far

as it takes the concept of the film, adds in some familiar characters like the skeksis and the mystic at the beginning but completely misses the point of providing an adventure in the most real sense.  The story itself needed at least another 20-30 pages to really round it off. So as opposed to a manga TokyoPop would have done better for itself by producing a small novel or a collection of stories that tie in with the main story as opposed to a separate entity such as this.  With such basic character and plot devices used it’s hardly a surprise that die-hards such as myself are far from unimpressed.  For anyone who wants to read this to get a bigger picture of the world that The Dark Crystal is set in then pick up the art books and soundtrack, not this.  For anyone who wants their child (and I say child knowing that the age on this volume is marked 13+: miss gauge of target audience I think so) to get a taste for manga or for the film then I’d dubiously recommend it.

From my honest opinion this manga is a poor prequel but a good incentive for those who haven’t enjoyed Henson’s original yet and to certainly look it up.  This book provides a reminder to die-hards such as me, that when a large publisher takes something and tries to remake/reshape/enhance it, they will do one of two things: one, they make poor rehash or two blow every expectation out of the water.  Neither have really happened here but erring on the side of the former seems far more prevalent then the latter.


The text provides a good 15 pages of guest artwork on The Dark Crystal movie combining the characters with some fantastic scenery images.  Not only that there are brief descriptions of the artists and their style and a few other releases from Tokyopop too.


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