While not a huge financial success upon its release (Labyrinth opened at number eight in the U.S. box office behind the likes of Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, Back to School and The Karate Kid Part II), there’s little wonder why Labyrinth is the cult phenomenon it is today. Directed by Jim Henson, executive produced by George Lucas and scripted by Terry Jones (whose collective fantasy cred includes Dark Crystal, Willow and Monty Python’s Holy Grail), Labyrinth has stood the test of time remarkably well. Thanks in no small measure to lead performances by a pre-Academy Award winning Jennifer Connelly and glam rock icon David Bowie, Labyrinth remains a fixture for 80s film enthusiasts and Muppet-mad millennials alike; all of whom proudly place this masterpiece of fantasy fiction in a pantheon alongside The Wizard of Oz and Alice in Wonderland.
Unlike Return to Labyrinth (the four volume manga series published by Tokyopop that served as an extended universe sequel of sorts, wherein a teenage Toby crosses paths with the nefarious Goblin King), Jim Henson’s Labyrinth 2017 Special #1, published by Archaia (an imprint of comic book publisher BOOM! Studios) features an anthology of short stories, all set within Henson’s imaginative universe, many of which occurring concurrently with the events of the film. Memorable muppets from said film such as Sir Didymus, Ludo and the Fireys all make appearances in the comic. Jareth, the Goblin King himself, makes several appearances as well (a major character noticeably nowhere to be found in Archaia’s previous Labyrinth effort, Labyrinth 30th Anniversary Special).
Three of the book’s six featured stories stand out among the rest. In “Cup of Tea?” by Katie Cook (My Little Pony, Gronk), we get to follow one wondrous worm, the same worm that unwittingly gave Sarah directions away from the castle, as he quests of tea guests. In “Into the Bog” by Alessandro Q. Ferrari and Pius Bak, loyalties are tested as one goblin garrison of the Threatening Trio falls foot first into the Bog of Eternal Stench. Ending on a high note in the issue’s closing tale “Run, Goblin, Run” by Jeff Stokely (Spire, Six-Gun Gorilla), one of Jareth’s more sensationalistic subjects with an over embellished sense of self-importance makes a mad dash toward his king’s court, desperately seeking attendance to the celebration of Jareth’s newly acquired newborn.
Fans of Labyrinth (myself included) will be happy to have any new Labyrinth EU as, when compared to say Star Wars or the menagerie of Muppets merch, Labyrinth EU is often in short supply. That having been said, this issue thus far does little to expand Labyrinth lore, nor does the entree present potential for expanding the fandom. Few who weren’t fans of the material already would read this and choose to view the film. Moreover, the overall tone of the book lacks much of the film’s darker, more transgressive elements. Nonetheless, vibrant artwork as well as a returning roster of favorable characters carry this easily thumbed through addition past the finish line for formally initiated fans.