Monday, June 30, 2014

Reminding Readers Why We Love Labyrinth, But Little More: Return To Labyrinth Volume 1!

The Good: Decent continuation of the Labyrinth storyline
The Bad: Repeats a lot of Labyrinth’s material, Unimpressive artwork, Very much an incomplete story, Almost no character development
The Basics: Return To Labyrinth Volume 1 is a creative expansion of the Labyrinth universe . . . except that much of it is simply a rehash of the film upon which the book is based.

My wife’s favorite film is (or, at least, was) Labyrinth (reviewed here!) and when I heard that the story of Labyrinth was continued in Manga form, I decided I would check out Return To Labyrinth Volume 1. Return To Labyrinth Volume 1 starts the four book story of Toby Williams as the protagonist of his own post-Labyrinth story. Return To Labyrinth Volume 1 actually became my first Manga and while there are aspects of the book I enjoyed, one of them is not the book’s artwork.

Despite a bevy of new characters, Return To Labyrinth Volume 1 is exceptionally derivative of Labyrinth. The style of humor and the character designs are instantly reminiscent of Labyrinth . . . or generic Manga characters. Both Toby and the Goblin King bear no resemblance to the characters they were once established as (Toby barely looks like a Caucasian teenager and the Goblin King looks nothing like David Bowie), but they look like characters from the covers of Manga books I’ve seen before.

More than twelve years after Labyrinth, Toby Williams is a disenchanted high school student who is picked on by his peers. He has a lousy run in a school play and when he makes a careless wish, he is rescued unwittingly by the Goblins from the Labyrinth. His half-sister, Sarah, cooks him a meal and Toby tries to work on his homework. When he finishes writing his paper, it is abruptly stolen by goblins. Chasing after the goblins, Toby finds himself at the Labyrinth.

Inside the Labyrinth, the Mayor, Spittledrum, works to maintain the Goblin King’s wishes. Spittledrum is something of an idiot and he craves the Goblin King’s approval. Believing that he is going to succeed the Goblin King, Spittledrum continues to put down everyone around him and ingratiate himself to the Goblin King. Spittledrum’s maid is the exceptionally competent Moppet. Moppet is a human who wears a goblin mask – which Toby sees through when they encounter one another – and is far smarter than Spittledrum. When the Goblin King explains how he has influenced Toby’s life to the teenager, he keeps Toby around with the lure of a Ball. At the Ball, the Goblin King reveals his purpose to all of the entities in attendance and he shocks Moppet, Toby, and the neighboring Queen.

Return To Labyrinth Volume 1 is very much an opening story. The book has a lot to it that is like a “Best Of” Labyrinth in terms of lines and character designs. Stank is essentially a baby version of Ludo. Spittledrum is a generic idiot goblin and Hoggle and Sir Didymus make an appearance right before the Ball chapter. The characters in Return To Labyrinth Volume 1 do not have enough time to truly develop. In fact, only Moppet and the wingless fairy Hana are established with enough character to feel like they will have a chance to develop. The Goblin King bears almost no resemblance to the original character and Toby is hardly a compelling protagonist in Return To Labyrinth Volume 1. Instead, Toby is a hapless teenager who has been manipulated into an end position his whole life.

As a product of Jim Henson’s studio interests, there are a few cute moments in Return To Labyrinth Volume 1. The Bricklayer is written by author Jake T. Forbes with a flair and wit that fits perfectly into the universe established in Labyrinth. Fans of Henson’s works will recognize the Fraggle who appears late in the book, which establishes an explicit connection between Labyrinth and Fraggle Rock. The cute allusions and the moments of wit are not enough to justify this book’s existence of future time investments in the franchise. The illustrated Manga book is a lukewarm expansion of the Labyrinth mythos at best; a cheap rip off of it at its worst.

For other animated books based upon movies, please check out my reviews of:
Twilight, Volume 1
Serenity: Those Left Behind
The A-Team: War Stories


For other book reviews, please check out my Book Review Index Page for an organized listing!

© 2014 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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