The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance #1 (Review)

I only became a fan of Jim Henson’s fantasy masterpiece The Dark Crystal relatively recently. I had heard glowing praise of the film or a long time but only in the last year or so did I get around to buying it on Blu-ray so that I could finally see it for myself. I instantly fell in love with the rich lore of the universe of Thra spun from Jim Henson’s boundless imagination and with the characters so expertly brought to life by the magic of puppetry. The Dark Crystal quickly earned a spot near the top of my list of favorites in the fantasy genre and I regret having waited so long to watch such a marvelous film. I would have loved it as a kid.

I eagerly awaited Netflix’s prequel series The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance and I was not disappointed. Resistance is a triumphant love letter to the original film and adds much depth to the lore of Thra with terrific new characters and dazzling effects. Jim Henson would have been proud! I sincerely hope that a second season is produced so that the many story threads left hanging at the first season finale can be wrapped up in a satisfying conclusion. When I saw that Archaia (an imprint of Boom! Studios) had released an Age of Resistance comic book series, I immediately bought up as many issues as I could get my hands on. I will be reviewing them all here on this blog.

Ironically, although titled Jim Henson’s The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance, this comic actually takes place years before the events of the Netflix series, making it a prequel to a prequel! The first few issues follow the adventures of Ordon, a Gelfling warrior who is the father of one of the show’s main protagonists, Rian. In the show it is hinted that before he became captain of the Crystal Castle Guards, Ordon was a war hero, having won renown fighting for the Stonewood clan in a conflict with the insectoid Arathim race. Thanks to this comic, we finally get to see these storied events unfold! We also get to meet Fara, the future Maudra of Stone-In-The-Wood, as a teenager. She has a lot of spunk and spirit and has the potential to be one of the breakout characters of future issues.

Writer Nicole Andelfinger (adapting a story by Jeffery Addiss and Will Matthews) has done an admirable job bringing these characters to life on the page. All of the dialogue is spot-on, revealing surprising depths of emotional impact. Perhaps the best written scene in the whole first issue is a tender moment between Ordon and his wife Shoni right before he leaves on a perilous quest from which he might not return. A lot is revealed about these characters, especially Ordon’s feelings about the conflicting duties to his clan and to his family. It was a brilliant scene.

I have to confess that initially, I wasn’t a big fan of the art. Matias Basla’s illustrations are highly stylized but very expressive and by the end of the issue they began to grow on me. The colors, by Miquel Meurto, are equally expressive, and are effectively used to set mood and atmosphere.

IMG_2049
Honestly, this is a sorry excuse for a cover, especially for a first issue. Blank, white nothing — who’s silly idea was this?

***Skip to the final paragraph to avoid SPOILERS for issue #1***

 The issue opens with an army of Arathim, being led by the Ascendancy hive mind, assaulting outlying Stonewood clan villages, and quickly moving towards Stone-In-The-Wood itself. After conferring with Maudra Vala, Ordon volunteers to embark on a quest to the Tomb of Relics in the Caves of Grot to retrieve the only weapon capable of defeating the Arathim – the fabled Dual Glaive. Vala’s daughter Fara is determined to accompany Ordon on the mission but Ordon is equally determined to go alone. He is convinced any companions will hinder rather than help him, and refuses to endanger anyone else’s life, especially the princess’s, on such a perilous venture. Vala concurs. However, Fara will not be deterred, and we soon learn that she has secretly tagged along. As Ordon mounts his landstider and departs we see that young Fara has stowed away among his luggage.

The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance #1 is a terrific first issue. It reintroduces us to some familiar characters and sets up what promises to be an exciting story arc that will illuminate events only hinted at in the Netflix series. I will caution that if you have never seen the Age of Resistance show or the original Dark Crystal film, you may not enjoy this comic as much as I did. I don’t think it works as well as a standalone story; quite a bit of background knowledge of the Dark Crystal universe and its characters is required to properly appreciate it. However, if you’re a fan of Jim Henson’s wonderful world of Thra I can’t recommend this comic enough! Pick up this issue and prepare for another spellbinding journey into a one of the most immersive fantasy realms of all time!

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