Modern Fantasy, Labyrinth, and DuckTales: August 2018 Comic Book Corner

Comic Books

Back in 2017, Geekmom told you that we were posting the last edition of the Comic Book Corner. We were writing more individual posts about single issue comics, and we thought the digest format was making you wait too long to read our thoughts. And this has been a great approach – for some books.

But not every issue deserves an entire post. Sometimes, especially when a book has the same team for months or years at a time, it can be repetitive to talk about the art and the panel design; we mostly start to focus on story development. Sometimes, a book deserves to be talked about – but we can say it in 500 words or so. Sometimes, there are things we’d say about several books at once – books designed for kids, for example, or high fantasy comics. This is why Comic Book Corner is making a return.

Welcome back to the Comic Book Corner. This month, Kay and Beth are talking about Modern Fantasy, DuckTales, and Jim Henson’s Labyrinth: Coronation.

Modern Fantasy #1

Cover of Modern Fantasy Issue #1

Writer: Rafer Roberts
Artist: Kristen Gudsnuk
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics

Take a Dungeons & Dragons adventure and drop into the millennial version of Friends, and out pops Modern Fantasy. The comic follows three main characters, a ranger named Sage, her dwarven best friend Gondra, and an aptly named Lizard Wizard who share an apartment in the bustling city of God’s Helm. Sage is weary of her bland office job and her Barbarian co-worker, Bock-Darr, who always shuffles his work onto her desk. She goes to rooftop parties, but all she stares at is the mysterious Ice Castle hanging in the air, a product of long-forgotten magic. She also stares a little at the cool, aloof Elf dude at the party, because, sexy elf, duh.

Feeling trapped on all sides by a boring reality, Sage longs a life of adventure, and daydreams about being a fierce, sword-wielding hero saving the day. After Lizard Wizard’s sketchy Thief boyfriend steals something he shouldn’t, the friends must gather their wits to save him from some rather nasty criminals. Sage is about to realize her first adventure, but will it be all she dreamed?

Beth was excited to read this first issue because she loved Kristen Gudsnuk’s Henchgirl, and while Gudsnuk isn’t writing this comic, she still sneaks lots of funny and clever little bits into the scenery, like the Lich of the Week bikini calendar on someone’s wall, and Sage’s selfies taken on her iScroll. The city of God’s Helm is wonderfully diverse with characters of different genders, races, relationships and beliefs presented in the best way possible: that it’s all normal and just part of life. Writer Rafer Roberts has a talent for making the reader care about these characters in just one issue, and Beth is looking forward to see how Dark Horse’s new creative duo brings God’s Helm to life.

Jim Henson’s Labyrinth: Coronation #2-4

Covers of Jim Henson’s Labyrinth Issues 2-4

Writer: Simon Spurrier
Illustrator: Daniel Bayliss, with spot illustrations by Michael Dialynas and Matt Smith on Issue #3, and with Irene Flores on Issue #4.
Colorist: Dan Jackson
Letters: Jim Campbell

Kay absolutely loved the first issue of Labyrinth and the continuing series has not disappointed her. Issue #1 ended with Maria pulling herself out of the waters of Venice, crying out that her baby has been taken from her, and Jareth wondering what will happen next with Toby.

The following issues – Issues #2 – #4 are currently out – continue to show the interplay of Jareth’s observation of Sarah’s journey interposed with Maria’s own travel. There are parallels – Maria also makes poor choices on who to trust putting herself in worsening danger – but there are also places where the stories diverge. As Sarah got closer to the center of the labyrinth, Jareth intervened directly, setting Sarah back or trapping her in dreams, the Owl King thwarts Maria differently. He goes back to Albert, Maria’s husband, and uses Albert’s fear of ruination to enlist his help in diverting Maria from her goals and making her think she has more control than she does.

Kay remains unconvinced that a reader unfamiliar with the original Labyrinth movie would appreciate the intricacies of the story as it unfolds, but feels more and more that the story being told here is intriguing enough to catch the eye of many different readers. Someone who had never seen the movie might not understand the significance of the Owl King’s statement to Maria that she “has thirteen hours to solve the labyrinth! Before your baby boy becomes one of us forever.”

The art continues to elevate and accentuate the story; the labyrinth and its denizens are sharp and angular and strange while Sarah, Maria, and both the babies are softer and rounder – human. I also deeply appreciated the use of color to establish mood in these issues. Certain scenes are cast in yellow, in blue, in dark gray, all with excellent reason, and none lasting long enough to distract from the primary color schemes of the characters.

The story overall continues to engage and intrigue; Jareth and the goblin Beetlegum tell very different stories of Maria, leaving the reader to wonder which story is real, and which one is false – or, more realistically, where the truth lies inbetween. Afterall, it was Beetlegum who minded Maria’s baby while Maria traveled the labyrinth. And, as Jareth says: “This is the labyrinth…there is no such thing as reliable.”

If you aren’t a Labyrinth fan, but love fantasy and adventure, it’s worth taking a look at this book, to see if you find enough here to enjoy. If you are a fan, Kay can’t recommend this book enough as an expansion and exploration of the world Jim Henson created. She will absolutely continue to pick it up, issue by issue.

DuckTales Issue #8

Cover of Issue #8 of DuckTales from IDW

Story A: The Beast In The Board Room!
Writer: Joe Caramagna
Artist: Luca Usai
Colorist: Lucio De Guiseppe
Letterer: Tom B. Long

Story B: Sleep (Walk) of Doom!
Writer: Steve Behling
Artist: Gianfranco Florio
Colorist: Angela Capolupo
Letterer: Tom B. Long

Kay has been reading the DuckTales comics on and off since IDW started the new series last year. She has often been disappointed by the stories, which felt disjointed, the art, which didn’t convey motion clearly, and the lettering, which was agonizingly small for a comic designed for kids. In Issue #8, however, at least some of these problems were solved.

One detail that may assist this issue in being more readable is that each story has one writer and one artist. Previous issues have frequently had more than one artist on each story, which may have led to confusion in that area. The art is much more consistent throughout both stories. The comic remains far too wordy, leaving the lettering painfully small, but the stories were more interesting and engaging to read.

In “The Beast In The Board Room!,” Scrooge engages the Manny, the Headless Man-Horse to mind McDuck Enterprises while he’s away on an adventure with Launchpad. Scrooge thinks Manny will annoy his board so much that they’ll be delighted when he returns from his adventures; instead, Manny wins over the board and Scrooge has to fight him to reclaim his position as CEO.

“Sleep (Walk) of Doom!” focuses on Webby and the triplets. Dewey is frustrated by his boring dreams, so he steals a coin that belonged to a Dream Dragon which supposedly has supernatural powers. It traps him in a dream where he’s fighting a dragon, and if he doesn’t win the fight, the dragon will break out of the dream and destroy our world. Webby joins him in the dream, and together they defeat the dragon…by trapping him in one of Dewey’s boring, usual dreams.

The “Beast in the Board Room!” feels like a story oriented more towards older fans of Duck comics; the line “tougher than the toughies and smarter than the smarties,” a line written Carl Barks in 1952 in Uncle Scrooge #1. Kay found herself unsure that a kid would understand the humor behind an old buzzard trying to take over McDuck Enterprises.

“Sleep (Walk) of Doom!” meanwhile feels like a truncated episode of the TV show. Kids might not mind that Webby clearly didn’t read the entire entry on the Dream Dragon the first time she looked at the book, and the silliness of saving the world by having a boring dream is entertaining. It’s also nice to see the revised, brilliant, adventurous Webby in the comics, having adventures right along with the triplets.

Ultimately DuckTales is a comic that Kay is going to continue to read, despite its issues. While these two stories weren’t perfect, she enjoyed them more than previous attempts. She hopes to see continued improvement from the comics adaptation of one of her favorite cartoons.

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