Written by Brian Holguin and Barbara Randall Kesel
Art by Alex Sheikman and Lizzy John
Concept by Brian Froud
96 pages, color
Published by Archaia
As a kid, I didn’t like the film of The Dark Crystal. The problem I had with the film was simple; I’d read A.C.H. Smith’s novelization first. I remember reading it over and over again back in 1982, fascinated by the world of Thra’s mythology and grand ideas that came to life in the book. By the time I finally saw the film a few months later, it felt curiously empty in comparison. So many of the big ideas that I’d gotten from Smith’s book were muted in the film, and it just didn’t live up to what I’d wanted from it. It’s somewhat apt, then, to find that Archaia’s new The Dark Crystal: Creation Myths manages to scratch that same itch that Smith’s novelization did back in the day, filling me once more with that sense of awe and wonder.
Brian Holguin tells the story of the world of Thra from the beginning; the forming of the planet around the Crystal, and the creation of Aughra, the great scholar of the world. As The Dark Crystal: Creation Myths follows Aughra, we see the beginnings of the Gelfling race, the first Great Conjunction that brings the UrSkeks to Thra… and Aughra’s son Raunip. It’s Raunip that becomes a much more central character as The Dark Crystal: Creation Myths progresses; if Aughra is the mother goddess figure that watches over Thra, then Raunip is the trickster figure that will bring discord.
For devotees of The Dark Crystal, Raunip is a character that will sneak up on those readers. It’s easy to get distracted by the big events of The Dark Crystal: Creation Myths; the thousand years between the UrSkeks’s arrival and their eventual sundering into the urRu and the Skeksis is only hinted at in the original film, so this is the first chance to see more than glimpse given at the film’s ending of what the UrSkeks are like. But while they will ultimately be the ones that break the Crystal, it’s hard to keep from feeling like Raunip, with his jealousy and scheming, is the one providing the serpent’s whisper into the UrSkeks’s ears. And, as the one major character who is brand-new and not in the film at all, his fate is unknown. It makes sense for Holguin to focus on Raunip, because we don’t know just yet how his story will end. Additionally, we’ve got some mystery surrounding Raunip as well—the identity of his father—and it’s more than enough to keep reader interest strong. Barbara Randall Kesel provides some text pieces in-between each chapter, various poems and fables of Thra that add to the overall feel and mythology of Thra, and they set the mood quite well here. They could have easily been a throwaway, but instead they’re just a larger piece of the puzzle.
Alex Sheikman and Lizzy John are the artists for The Dark Crystal: Creation Myths and they’re a good choice, keeping in the style of creator Brian Froud but still having their own look. They bring a softness to the world of the Dark Crystal, with the birth of Aughra looking gentle and gorgeous as she arrives from within the planet itself. Sheikman and John do a strong job with bringing the Gelflings to life as well, making them look (as with Aughra) recognizable from the film but without looking like tracings from movie stills. Raunip’s awkward character design is good too; he has just enough resemblance to Aughra that you can see he’s her son, but at the same time he looks different from everyone else on Thra to make him an outsider from day one. Overall, there’s a gentleness to The Dark Crystal: Creation Myths; even moments like Aughra’s eye getting burnt out during the first Great Conjunction (as mentioned in the original film) manage to keep from being gruesome. It’s not glossed over, but they don’t make it disgusting, and if anything it manages to still be an all-ages-friendly moment.
The Dark Crystal: Creation Myths Vol. 1 tickles that same fancy that the novelization of the film did almost 30 years ago. It’s more than just a prequel to the film, it’s a story that feels alive and rich with detail. That’s not an easy feat for a tie-in comic to a film, but The Dark Crystal: Creation Myths makes excellence look easy. I’ll definitely be back for volume 2; a job well done by all involved.