Saturday, 25 February 2017

A comic book return to the world of the Dark Crystal

After a long week, getting home on a Friday evening and finding two packets from Forbidden Planet waiting on the doormat was always going to start the weekend well; matters got even better on discovered that one of them contained the opening issue of a sequel to Jim Henson’s brilliant fantasy, The Dark Crystal.

A whole 35 years after that film – and oh, how old that makes me feel – Archaia Comics and Boom! Studio have just launched a highly-anticipated comic – The Power of the Dark Crystal, with a story by Simon Spurrier and art by Kelly and Nichole Matthews.

Set a century after the events of the film saw Jen and Kira restore the crystal and, with it, the world of Thra, this is based on a screenplay for an unfilmed sequel, and opens as a strange being arrives in a blaze of fire and on a desperate quest.

Scheduled for 12 issues, it’s beautifully illustrated – and the subscription cover by Sana Takeda is a gem, with more than a nod to Brian Froud’s wonderful concept work for Henson.

The first issue comfortably lives up to to expectation with nice pacing and intriguing suggestions of trouble brewing, as the ageing Gelflings are woken from slumber by the stranger’s arrival.

Elsewhere, as we start to turn the corner into spring, it seems a fitting moment to glance back and enjoy a glut of comics that all have have winter in their pages.

Klaus and the Witch of Winter, with a story by Grant Morrison and art by Dan Mora, is Boom!’s one-off winter special that sees a cruel witch awakened from ancient slumber by global warming, leaving it for Klaus to sort things out in time for Christmas and help a troubled child.

As with volume one of the trade (which I reviewed a while ago), it’s a cracking romp, excellently done, with the sort of emotional sophistication that marks it out as particularly classy.

Dark Horse has another seasonal offering in the Hellboy Winter Special, which gives us three short stories.

The Great Blizzard – story by Mike Mignola and Chris Roberson, with art by Christopher Mitten – doesn’t feature the titular hero, but is set in the 19th century and tells of a huge snow storm.

God Rest Ye Merry has a story by the same paring, with art by Paul Grist, and finds a stranger cropping up to help Hellboy and the BPRD tackle a Santa gone bad, while The Last Witch of Fairfield – story by Mignola and Scorr Allie; art by Sebasti├ín Fiumara – sees Hellboy, Liz and Abe hunting for two missing children.

Okay, it doesnt involve any of Mignolas iconic artwork – but Hellboy has always been more than just that very stylised look – and the stories are all brief, but its fun nonetheless.

And talking of fun, Dynamite has a nice way of getting you to try a new comic: offering an opening issue for just 25c – so around the 25p mark over here.

Having enjoyed the Conan films and some of the books, plus Red Sonja, I decided to give the latters latest comic incarnation a try. Now on to the third issue, Amy Chu’s story, with art by Carlos Gomez, sees our heroine dumped from her Hyrkanian home into New York in a snow blown January 2017.

But for all the confusion caused by the modern world and the language, one thing remains a constant same for Sonja: Kulan Gath is still trouble and he knows she’s arrived in town.

You don’t look for great insights in a comic like this, but it is good fun.

If I dont mind a bit of sword and sorcery, I also rather like vampire stories. And since Dynamite was offering an identical cut-price introduction to lure you in is the first issue of a rebooted Vampirella, it would have been churlish not to give it a whirl.

The story is by Paul Cornell with art by Jimmy Broxton, and it is a cracking intro that leaves plenty to keep us wondering, even while getting things going quickly.

Who are the mysterious trio hunting for Vampirella’s tomb – and why are themselves being hunted?

Since I’m still feeling very experimental with the comics I’m trying, the 25c offer was too good to refuse. I didn’t particularly expect much, but so far, both have been a very pleasant surprise.

And with the real world offering so much to cause concern, pure escapist entertainment can feel like a life saver.

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