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February 6, 2011 / milesandhisfavorites

Review Of The Return: Part One Of Two


The Sword Clock

Before we begin this review of the graphic novel four-part series called Return To Labyrinth (if you haven’t seen the movie Labyrinth, watch it and come back), we must tell a story.  By the way, all artistic and writing credit goes to Chris Lie and Jake T. Forbes.  Once upon a time…

… In a kingdom far away, there lived a beautiful princess.  Life wasn’t easy for the young princess… for her wicked stepmother worked her like a slave.  The princess was forced to always stay home and watch over her baby brother, so she could never leave the castle.  But what no one knew was that the King of the Goblins had fallen in love with the princess, and had given her certain powers.  The princess knew that if she wished it, the King of the Goblins would keep her brother in his castle forever and ever and turn him into a goblin.  So one night, when the princess could take the burden no longer, she called to the Goblin King for help.  “Goblin King, Goblin King!  Wherever you may be, take this child of mine far away from me!” she said.  The King of the Goblins granted the princess’s witch and took the baby to his castle at the center of a vast labyrinth.  Too late, the princess realized that she still loved her baby brother, and so she pleaded with the King to return him.  “What’s said is said.” the Goblin King responded, for he took his promises very seriously.  But the Goblin King did not have it in his heart to refuse the Princess, for he still loved her a great deal.  “You have thirteen hours in which to solve the Labyrinth before your brother becomes one of us forever.”  Through dangers untold and hardships unnumbered, she fought her way to the castle beyond the Goblin City to take back the child that he had stolen.  The Goblin King offered the princess her every heart’s desire, if only she would bow to him.  But her will was as strong as his and her kingdom as great.  He had no power over her.  The princess returned home with her baby brother, confident that she had seen the last of the Goblin King.  And sure enough, the Goblin King never troubled her again.  Her brother, however, was not so lucky…

And that’s how Return To Labyrinth begins.  Believe it or not, minus the Cinderella fantasy details, that story is the whole plot of the movie Labyrinth, which in turn inspired Return To Labyrinth.  In the four-part graphic novel series, Labyrinth’s protagonist, Sarah, has a brother who was once stolen by the Goblin King, Jareth.  That brother’s name is Toby, and he’s all grown up now, and is currently a high school failure.  It doesn’t sound like a very good main character, but as the series progresses, the kid becomes a king at heart.  Well, actually, a king on the outside, too, but you’ll have to wait for that part.



The cover of Volume One, and all of the other RTL covers, was done by artist Kouyu Shurei, who didn’t do the interior art.  It’s odd, but maybe it’s for the best.  There are some clear differences between Lie and Shurei’s art.  But both are pretty darn good, just to sum up.  But enough about cover versus interior, let’s cut to the plot chase.  Warning: Spoilers Imminent.  The story begins with the story I just told you, and cuts to a play starring-Toby.  Toby manages to set the set on fire, and is eventually caught “cheating” on a math test.  This leads to a confrontation with Jareth, the Goblin King, who proceeds to insult Toby and jump out of a three story window.  Wow.  Not much of a king, is he?  Soon, Toby chases a goblin named Skub (and thus begins the weird names) into the Labyrinth.  By the way, this place is huge.  I mean really huge.  Toby meets Hana, a wingless fairy, and Stank, a Ludo-like young monster.  You haven’t forgotten to see the movie, did you?  Stank is, essentially, a young, brown-furred Wampa.  But enough about Stank.  After a chase by a giant water monster and an encounter with a goblin knight named Candlewic, Toby meets Jareth for the first time in about thirteen years.  And Jareth is surprisingly hospitable, despite being a goblin sorcerer overlord who owns a gigantic maze.

Now, being a reboot of Labyrinth, we have to get creative with our characters here.  That’s why Hana and Stank come into play, as well as a goblin (actually, not a goblin) named Moppet.  And of course, old favorites have to return.  Thus the cameo by Ludo, the funny notion that Hoggle really did become Prince Of The Land Of Stench, and, of course, Sir Didymus and his faithful, um, dog.  Here’s what happen when old and new collide.


Sir Didymus And Moppet

The story then progresses to a royal ball scene where Jareth’s ex-fiancee, Mizumi, and her daughters Moulin and Drumlin, attend.  Mizumi and the mayor of the goblins, Panajan Spittledrum, both expect to become Jareth’s successor, but big surprise-it’s Toby!  I have to admit, this graphic novel is actually pretty good.  It’s got characters who are funny and wholesome, and also goes nuts with the Labyrinth mythos.  What more could you ask for?  Other than a second volume, of course…


Guess what?  Wish granted!  Volume Two begins thirteen years ago.  Jareth goes to Mizumi in her kingdom, which is called Moraine.  We get to see a young Moulin and Drumlin, there’s a conversation, and Jareth makes a deal over an ablation.  Whatever that is.  Cut to the end of the ball, thirteen years later.  The older Moulin and Drumlin clean up the mess, and then Toby learns a little more about being Goblin King.  Later on, he visits the slightly disturbing Museum Of Toby, where Moppet saves his life.  Time to educate this prince!  We go through several of Toby’s lessons, during which he demonstrates a penchant for magic.  So Mizumi decides to tutor him in the ways of magic, starting with a prophecy (Hardcore Muppet fans, stay alert and look for a few inside jokes!).  By the way, when Mizumi starts tutoring him, things kinda don’t make any sense.  Like getting to his lesson.


Strange Staircase

Eventually, Moppet and Hana get into a sticky (and also pretty wet) situation with Drumlin.  Toby saves both of them, but Moppet’s mask shatters and it is revealed that she is actually a (kind of gorgeous) girl around Toby’s age, who also resembles Sarah.  Speaking of Sarah, she opens her door to discover Jareth… sitting in a rainstorm…saying “Hello, Sarah”.  Dum-dum-dum!

All in all, this graphic novel series is better than being a Fiery sentenced to a beheading!  And I really mean that (Fierys are those feathery creatures that sing Chilly Down in Labyrinth)!  There’s mystery, there’s suspense, there’s even humor!  Check out this scene with Skub and Mayor Spittledrum:


The First Chef Exploded

So if you want to read one Jim Henson-based graphic novel series, read this one!  Sure, the artwork isn’t as good as the covered, but it’s still pretty good!  And the story-well, just read it!


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