Saturday, April 9, 2011

Return to the Labyrinth Volume 3

Two more volumes to go! Here is my review of Return to the Labyrinth, volume 3! Sorry it's taken so long.

I'm going to refrain from bitching about the differences between the cover art and the actual art, because you all know my thoughts on that.

Thankfully, we do not start off with another frigging recap of the movie. We start off with Toby's thoughts, recalling that when he was little Sarah used to tell him stories. Then one day, she randomly stopped, started focusing on school, and gave away all her toys. She went to college, became a teacher, got engaged (*fangirl panic attack*), wasn't engaged anymore, (*fangirl regains oxygen*) and basically became the most boring person ever. Then she and Toby drifted apart.

We swiftly fly back to Toby, who is marveling at how much Moppet looks like Sarah. Mizumi appears out of nowhere and pretends to be shocked and displeased that Drumlin just tried to kill Moppet. Moppet starts crying, Spittledrum demands everyone come inside cuz he needs to talk.

Uh oh. Sounds like Narrative Exposition time.

Ah but wait! We switch back to Jareth and Sarah, who are by far the most interesting in this story. Which really sucks because the story is supposed to be focusing on Toby. Sigh.

Sarah stares at Jareth and says, "I'm sorry, do I know you?"

...wait. She doesn't remember him?

She had her baby brother kidnapped by goblins, had to navigate a crazy-ass labyrinth, got chased by the cleaners, rescued a yeti, nearly fell into the Bog of Eternal Stench, got roofied by the Goblin King...and she DOESN'T REMEMBER THIS?!


Jareth says that they've met before, Sarah asks if they were in theater together, which seems to amuse Jareth. He introduces himself as Jareth Quinn, saying he owns a small theater. Sarah wryly thinks to herself that he's come to hit on her (and this is a and Jareth remarks that she's been on his mind for a while and basically invites himself in.

We switch back to Toby and co. Spittledrum states that the reason Jareth chose Toby specifically as his heir was because of Sarah. Spittledrum says, "You were the bait to lure her here--to test her will and break it. He wanted to possess his own strange way, it was almost as if he loved her." Mizumi wonders why Jareth couldn't break HER will.

Basically Mizumi and Spittledrum explain that because Sarah solved the Labyrinth, and because the Labyrinth was a part of Jareth's soul, his soul was now dying. Moppet asks what that has to do with her, Spittledrum recalls back to the previous volume when Jareth paid a visit to Mizumi. When he returned to the Goblin City, apparently he brought back Moppet.

Back to Sarah and Jareth. Sarah makes Jareth tea. Jareth is unimpressed with Sarah's life as he sees it. Sarah offers him some peach pie which makes Jareth extremely uncomfortable, and I must admit, is one of the more amusing parts of the manga.

They talk some more about Sarah's current life, and Jareth makes a snooty comment about how he never would've pegged Sarah Williams to keep others in the line. Sarah gets a tad defensive, saying she preferred to think of it as helping her students realize their own potential. Jareth acknowledges this as noble, but then demands what she's doing about HER potential. Sarah frowns and says that she's glad Jareth could follow his dreams, but for her, that's all they were: dreams. She had to grow up. (Me: LAME! GROWING UP IS LAME!) Jareth makes an airy comment about Sarah not seizing her dreams and how she'll come to regret it someday.

When did Jareth become a therapist? And actually, Sarah wonders this too.

Sarah basically informs him that she doesn't have time for drama in her life and Jareth mentally notes with pleasure that she is still in many ways defiant. Jareth excuses himself graciously, saying he hopes they'll meet again. And then he disappears into the night.

Honestly, this interaction between Sarah and Jareth is by far one of the most interesting scenes in the entirety of the manga. This is also a little sad.

We cut back to Toby & co. Mizumi tells Moppet she is an ablation. An ablation, we learn, is an aspect of a person siphoned off from another being.

Liiike...a horcrux?

Ok, I'm stretching it to be funny. Basically it's a being Mizumi can create out of elements of your personality. Your anger, your hope, your fear--Moppet is an ablation created out of Sarah's dreams. The ablation holds that aspect and the original loses it.

Honestly, this isn't a half-bad plot point. Since it was Sarah's dreams that defeated Jareth, he thought that controlling that aspect of her would restore his powers. It also explains Sarah not remembering Jareth, looking so darn homely, and basically having an extremely boring existence. Although Mizumi makes it clear that Moppet is NOT a clone (I hate clone plots, but that's another blog for another day) it still seems like a clone plot, and yet a refreshingly original plot.

Now watch it all come crashing down.

Spittledrum reveals that he figured this all out and Jareth told him to never let Moppet explore the castle alone and if she ever mentions Jareth or acts strangely, to give her...what is that? Some kind of fruit...ordinarily I'd say peach, but it's awfully dark for a peach. An apple? A pear? A kumquat? I don't know, some kind of magic fruit.

Toby gets pissed at Mizumi and demands why the heck she did all that, and Mizumi goes, "Duh, for love. I love Jareth, I'd do anything for him." Okay, I'm paraphrasing, but that's pretty much what she said.

Mizumi offers to undo what she did, but then points out that Moppet would disappear and basically be sucked back into Sarah, which Moppet isn't to keen on. Toby looks stricken at the thought. Frankly, Moppet hasn't really engaged me as a reader, so I don't really care about this plight--if the writing had been a little better though, this might've worked as an interesting device.

Mizumi also adds that if any harm comes to either the ablation or the original, they both die. FYI.

Toby basically says, well this sucks, but I have to put my sister back together, Moppet gets pissed, slaps him, and takes off. Mizumi says (paraphrases), "If you don't seize control of the Labyrinth by your coronation tomorrow, this world is doomed and your sister is screwed. No pressure."

Next chapter. Toby angsts. Toby receives magic pendant thing. Mizumi visits Drumlin in jail. Mizumi then absorbs her back into herself while Moulin is in the background, watching horrified. We find out that Drumlin is an ablation of Mizumi, an aspect of Mizumi's hope.

We then learn Skub's backstory which is so boring I'm not going to relate it. To summarize, Skub lets down his family and is very very sad about it. The end.

Next chapter. Moppet angsts and decides to run away. Hana comes with her. Moppet is upset because Toby treated her like she wasn't a person. Well...she isn't a person. Like I said, if the writer had worked a little bit more to get the reader engaged with Moppet I'd feel more sympathetic, but I just don't care. Suffice it to say, Moppet runs away.

Goblins notice a storm is coming.

Coronation time. Moulin pops up and tells Toby not to accept the crown. Toby ignores her. Moulin tells him that Jareth is a coward and evil. Toby thinks that while Jareth does have issues, he can't be all that bad because he created such a wonderful place.

I could write an entirely new blog post about the nature of Jareth, but I'll save that. Basically, there's more than one interpretation. We have the funny villain, like in Lixxle fics. We have the dark, scary villain, as in Subtilior fics. We also have a combination of both, in Pika fics, as well as her fabulous webcomic. We have the die-hard shipper fans (hi) that just want Jareth and Sarah to get together, the fans who see Jareth as a legitimate villain and don't see any kind of sparks between the two (aside from Sarah's fascination and infatuation, which either way, Jareth does manipulate) and the fans who see Jareth desire Sarah in an unhealthy and predatory way. The main problem with Forbes' version of Jareth, is he's trying to incorporate all these interpretations of Jareth in one story, and it just doesn't work. It makes it cluttered and confusing.

Anyway, back the manga. Toby runs off, and Moulin has a confrontation with Esker. Esker doesn't like that Moulin is interfering with Mizumi's plans and tells her, "Why don't you go back to your room like a good girl?"

To which Moulin fires back, "Don't you know Esker? Good girls don't wear black!"

...what? Was that supposed to be witty, intelligent dialogue? Cuz it just sounds stupid to me.

They have a fight, which Moulin ultimately loses and then gets captured.

So anyways, coronation time. Toby undergoes a test, and wins. He figures out that the Pathmaker, is himself. He is now Goblin King. Yay.

The next chapter is called 'Obsession', and this is by far the most interesting sequence in the entire volume. We Sarah get out of bed, go through her morning routine. When she's putting on lipstick, she suddenly gets a flash of herself on stage, with thousands of people cheering. We see Jareth in the front row, reciting some kind Basically talking about memories and dreams and regrets and obsession and stuff. Sarah sees Jareth in this vision, watches him stand, walk out of the auditorium and then suddenly reappear behind her. Sarah wakes up from this vision, shakes it off, and drives to school.

She has one of her students read aloud from "The Tempest" which is what they're studying. Heh.

Here's another complaint--it was said that Sarah is teaching high school, but the students Lie draws look about nine years old. If they are grade school age, fine, but then why are they studying Shakespeare? At least Toby looks his age.

Meanwhile, Jareth is continuing to stalk Sarah, and Sarah has noticed that something weird is going on. She shrugs it off and we follow her to a restaurant.

Jareth is in the background, chilling at the bar, continuing to unnervingly watch Sarah.

Sarah sees someone come in, and then this happens:
Apologies for the ghetto quality. It is nigh on impossible to find scanlations of this sucker. Yes, that is Sarah's...boyfriend? Gentleman caller embrace Sarah and kiss her. We see Jareth jump up and look extremely pissed. I am pleased, because it REALLY SEEMS LIKE THEY'RE GOING IN A JARETH/SARAH DIRECTION. I know I keep emphasizing this, but I really need to build you up for what happens in the fourth volume.

Jareth walks out into the rain, extremely annoyed, and heads into an alley. His pendant disappears, and he realizes that Toby has now ascended the throne and now his magic is all gone.

Jareth looks around for something, and then finds a passageway underground through a garbage can. He enters a room filled with technological stuff and runs into a teeny tiny robot. Jareth sneers at it, and then finds Cob, an apparently exiled goblin.

Cob looks a little like Hoggle. Apparently Cob was keeping a shard of Jareth's heart that Jareth gave him for safe-keeping. Jareth wants this shard back. Cob pretty much refuses to give it up, because he likes having that kind of power, Jareth threatens to break his tiny robot (DING) and Cob hands over the shard. Jareth absorbs it, and apparently it gives him a little bit of extra magical energy. He turns Cob into a worm for betraying him.

FINALLY, something canon!

We go back to Sarah, who comes home and finds flowers on her front porch. Included with the flowers, are tickets to Enigma Lain's new show. I don't know if I mentioned it, Enigma Lain is the fake theatre Jareth claims to own. End chapter.

Next chapter, the goblins are cheering on Toby. We get a flashback from Mizumi, recounting the end of the wager Mizumi and Jareth made. Jareth asks Mizumi if she hurt Sarah whilst creating the ablation, and Mizumi sneers at him, and says no, it was painless. Mizumi gives Jareth the ablation (Moppet) and says calmly that Moppet will never love him. Jareth demands why, and Mizumi informs him that he's too in love with himself.

Well...she kinda has a point...snicker.

So basically, Mizumi goes MWA HA HA HA and entraps Toby and declares war on the Goblin City, announcing she is taking control.

Who didn't see that coming?

Candlewic stabs Spittledrum. Oh no. I'm so upset. He was such a lovable character that I totally got attached to. (That's sarcasm, if you can't hear my wry voice inside your head.)

We see Moppet leaving. Mizumi demands to know where the Pathmaker is. Toby doesn't tell her. Toby gets thrown into an oubliette.

Ooh! Back to Sarah! Finally! Sarah is fighting on the phone with her boyfriend, who is refusing to see the play with her. She snaps at him, hangs up the phone, and then trots off, determining that she will go on her own.

We see Sarah walk towards the fake theatre. Mizumi orders Esker to kill the ablation, saying that if you kill the ablation, the original goes with it.

And so ends volume 3!

Things I liked: The sequences between Jareth and Sarah weren't too bad, actually. They were interesting and filled with a decent amount of intrigue. I just wish the art matched it.

Things I disliked: The art went from mediocre to worse. Lie doesn't seem to have very good perspective either, not that I know much about it, but Sarah's rooms and furniture seemed oddly proportioned. While Jareth and Sarah's dialogue and interactions were interesting, everything else was dull. I kept wishing the sequences with Toby would end so we could get back to Sarah and Jareth. I'll explain the problem with centering the plot around Toby in my final review.

Thanks for reading! The next review should be up next week or in a few days, depending.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Return to the Labyrinth Volume 2

Ok, for serious this time. Welcome to my review of volume 2 of Return to the Labyrinth!

Once again, we're treated to a BEAUTIFUL cover by Kouyu Shurei. Seriously, why couldn't Shurei do the story art as well?

Okay, so we start this volume off with...another recap of the movie. Really? I'm pretty sure the readers know what happened in the movie, or at least remember the recap you gave us in the first volume.

However, Sarah looks almost kinda pretty the way he drew her in THIS recap. Maybe he's figured out how to draw women...

And the recap ends with Jareth waking up. Aha! It was a nightmare. Poor Jareth. He...wait, wait, WAIT. What the HELL is he wearing?

Sorry for the ghetto quality, I took this since I couldn't find it on google, which leads me to conclude that the Labyrinth fans are really determined to pretend this manga series didn't happen, because I feel google imaging Jareth plus pajamas plus weird pajama hat would have turned up SOMETHING.

But seriously. The hat? And the weird balloon pant pajamas...? What...?

I can say with full confidence, and I'm sure my fellow Labyrinth fans will agree, that the Goblin King sleeps in the nude. I'M JUST SAYING. This is practically canonical. Deviantart ANY picture of Jareth sleeping and I guaran-freaking-tee you it will be naked.

This is shojo manga, y'all. Why would you deprive the fans of that kind of fanservice?

Okay, anyway, he wakes up and paces around in his ridiculous pajamas and we learn that this is actually a flashback thirteen years ago, right after Sarah defeated him. Jareth angsts about this for a little bit and mutters, "Sarah...what do you want from me?"

We cut to him eating...breakfast? Thankfully he's in normal Goblin King attire although his nails are painted and claw-like and kind of bother me but I can't prove or disprove his nails do or do not look like that since in the movie he wears gloves for the duration. The goblin Spittledrum bursts in and and yells that the goblins are revolting, we get a lame pun from Jareth, and then a discussion that after Jareth's defeat, the goblins aren't really feeling like Jareth is much of a king, and that they think he's losing power. Spittledrum toots his own horn and suggests Jareth steps down, but instead of bogging him like canon Jareth would do, manga Jareth just kind of laughs and says, 'Sure, I'll make you mayor, I'm gonna go do something vague and mysterious, brb.'

Then I get excited, because the inner monologue starts to hint of Jareth/Sarah.

As he travels to somewhere vague and mysterious, he thinks, "Every leaf, every stone, every life within these walls belongs to me...but I would destroy them all and build them all over again...if it would bring her back. For what use is a kingdom to a king if he has no queen to share it with?"

Really? Seriously? You're--you're gonna go in a Jareth/Sarah direction? We're gonna do this, seriously?

Don't get too excited, fangirls. Snarl.

Anyway, Jareth travels to Mizumi's kingdom. Remember Mizumi, our obvious villainess? Mizumi is all sneering and taunting, offers him refreshment, Jareth rebuffs the offer. Then Mizumi does something super creepy and turns into Sarah and goes, "Take me, Jareth. Rule me. I don't need anyone but you."

Oh, that's just mean.

She gets all up in his face (for a second I think there's going to be a kiss) and Jareth has a NOT AMUSED expression and I start to get even MORE excited because it really does seem like they're going in a Sarah/Jareth direction!

Mizumi transforms back and sneers again at Jareth for losing his heart to a mortal girl.

Jareth ignores this commentary on his love life and requests Mizumi make him an ablation. What is an ablation? We find out later. He makes a bet with her, saying if he wins the bet, he gets to keep the ablation. But if she wins, she gets the Labyrinth and his kingdom. Mizumi accepts, giving him thirteen years to win the wager. No, my Hermiones, we don't get to find out what the wager is. Stay tuned.

Then we start on chapter 2, where the goblins are grumbling about Jareth's quick decision to make Toby king.

I recall from the first volume a quick flash on Mizumi's face when Jareth made Toby his heir. She looked super pissed. However, she is now all sweet and accommodating towards Toby, urging him to ask her if he needs any help at all. Anyone with half a brain cell can see she is NOT TO BE TRUSTED, but unfortunately for us, we have a really stupid protagonist. Toby angsts about suddenly being king and bonds a little with Skub, who is by far the most adorable goblin.

We then cut to Moppet who is being chewed out by Spittledrum for attending the ball. We flash to a little sequence that explains some about her past, how she tried to steal food from the Junk Lady, and seemed to grow up in poverty and starvation. The Junk Lady takes her as he own, gives her a goblin mask, because apparently her face (her human face?) is so repellent that she needs to hide.

Spittledrum buys her from the Junk Lady and we go back to Spittledrum still chewing Moppet out, reminding her how lucky she is.

Then we go to Mizumi and her daughters, Moulin and Drumlin. Mizumi explains to them that she can't simply conquer the Labyrinth and the Goblin City because that's against the rules. She can only get them by trade or by defeating them in battle. Apparently the goblins kick ass at war so she can't get them that way...

Hang on a second. Rules? Where are these rules written? And frankly, hasn't it been established by the movie that Jareth doesn't really give a flying shit about rules? Remember how he gave Sarah thirteen hours to solve the Labyrinth and then decided to fastforward time three hours in the tunnel just for shits and giggles?

Whatever. Moving on.

Toby is wandering around aimlessly, still angsting about being king. He then comes across the 'Museum of Toby', which well establishes Jareth's voyeuristic tendencies. He is extremely creeped out, and then the museum director, Professor Maelgrot, demands the entry fee. He then looks Toby up and down and says something that ALMOST makes up for the dullness this volume is providing.

Professor Maelgrot: You remind me of the babe.

Toby: What babe?


LOL, so much love here. Professor Maelgrot recognizes Toby and shows him around the museum, then showing him something that is highly gross, a sculpture of Toby made out of dead skin, discarded toenail clippings, old hair, etc. Toby, like me, is immediately nauseous at this, and then Professor Maelgrot decides he wants to chop up Toby for a more realistic representation and then he gets knocked out by Moppet.

Moppet and Toby leave the museum and together they angst about him being king and how Moppet can't remember her past. Then we see--hey the Wiseman!

I love this guy. And actually, Lie did a really good job drawing the Wiseman.

The Wiseman tells Toby that you don't always get what you want, but you'll find sometimes that you get what you need. *resists urge to belt out "You Can't Always Get What You Want"*

Then Toby stops angsting and is all, "Okay, I'm gonna be an awesome king!"

Then we start chapter three and YAY JARETH FINALLY!

Jareth is stuck in his own Labyrinth. He mutters about it being way easier when it did what he wanted it to do. He gets stuck in a trap for a second but squeezes out, bitching about how humiliating this is, and then comments on Sarah's ability to solve the Labyrinth without magic. He's out of the Labyrinth, and then looks on, sighing about what a good reign it was, and wonders how Toby's getting on.

Sigh. We're going back to Toby, aren't we?

Toby is having trouble learning the duties of being king. That's pretty much the next few pages. Then Mizumi shows up and offers to teach him some magic, promising that he could be just as if not more powerful than Jareth.

Because Toby is a STUPID GARY STU protagonist, he gets all excited and agrees immediately. Moppet, who seems to be the only one with common sense, says they're fine on their own, and Mizumi almost removes her mask for speaking out of turn. Moppet speaks privately with Toby, saying she doesn't trust Mizumi and Toby agrees with her, but seems to have a 'keep your friends close, your enemies closer' sort of philosophy. Frankly, with the sort of Xanatos gambit Mizumi's got going, I'd stay the hell away, but like I said, stupid Gary Stu protagonist. Sigh.

Skub becomes Toby's cook. Toby really sucks at Goblin King lessons. Skub attempts to make macaroni and cheese with disastrous results. Didymus teaches Toby to fence. Toby nearly gets the crap beaten out of him by Candlewic, but defeats him at the last possible second through magical means. Toby then goes to Mizumi to have magic lessons.

Mizumi reveals a little about her and Jareth's past. Apparently they were once in love. Then Jareth decided not to be in love (bear in mind, this is from Mizumi's point of view, we'll see the real side of things later) and created the Labyrinth to keep everyone out. His heart is the Labyrinth, and when he let Sarah in, it nearly destroyed him. *coughcoughBITTEREXcoughcough*

Random dumb goblin political meeting. Then to Mizumi bitching about what an idiot Toby is. (That's my complaint too, Mizumi.) Mizumi then says she can't change destiny, but by God, she can outsmart it!


More Goblin King lessons. Toby's getting better. Hana wants him to help her find her wings. He's too busy, Moppet offers to help. Mizumi and Toby go to the Ministry of Prophecies, which looks suspiciously like the Department of Mysteries from the Harry Potter series.

Moppet and Hana find a mysterious room that makes Moppet feel all woozy and remember scary things like Jareth going "LOVE ME!" No, I'm not joking. That's actually there.

They get locked in.

We see a bunch of prophecies that are thinly veiled references to other fantasy books and movies (the Narnia one admittedly made me squee, however) and then we get Toby's prophecy, which is, "When king of old forsakes his hall, and chaos comes to Goblin Town, a human boy shall heed the call, the long-lost heir shall don the crown. A promise of yore, born of blood, will open path to Labyrinth's heart, and usher forth a wondrous flood--a new era then shall start. When friends and family lost and prince rest into dark abyss, the Labyrinth rightful heir be restored by true love's kiss."

Wait. TRUE LOVE'S KISS?! We're--we're REALLY doing the Jareth/Sarah angle? I just want to be clear. TRUE LOVE'S KISS. Remember that. Remember that.

Drumlin then attacks the tower Hana and Moppet are stuck in and Toby saves them using some of his newfound magic skillz. Then Moppet's mask gets broken and we see...Moppet looks just like Sarah! ZOMG! What can this mean?!

I don't care.

But wait! Interesting! We see Sarah chilling in her house, grading papers during a thunderstorm. She pets her cat, decides to make some tea when she hears a knock at the door. She trots to the door...and there is Jareth, who smiles and says, "Hello, Sarah."

Things I liked: The apparent shift in direction to a Jareth/Sarah romance. More fun references to the movie. Mizumi messing with Jareth's head by turning into Sarah at the beginning. The cliffhanger ending.

Things I disliked: Jareth's weird pajamas and pajama hat. The general dullness of this volume. The beginnings of Jareth's backstory, which claims he created the Labyrinth to get away from everyone when it was always Bowie's interpretation that it was sort of forced on him, and he took it up rather reluctantly.