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Return to Labyrinth, Volume 1


If you’re from the generation that so lovingly grew up with The Muppet Show, Sesame Street, The Dark Crystal, Labyrinth, or Fraggle Rock, then you’ve seen works done by Jim Henson. I mean, this dude had the monopoly on puppets and puppeteering. Seriously. Even Star Wars used puppets that were partially the creation of Jim Henson.

And these movies and shows became a very important part of many people’s childhoods. Seriously, I don’t know which I watched more–Labyrinth, The Neverending Story (not a Henson project,) or Star Wars Trilogy (recorded off TV and thus edited…grrr!) But suffice it to say, I was in love with what little fantasy options we had at the time.

Nowadays, kids have a TON of fantasy novels and shows to choose from, like Harry Potter (which I argue “borrows” a great deal from Labyrinth and LOTR Trilogy,) Spiderwick Chronicles, Peter Jackson and the Olympians (not the director,) and a bunch more I’m too lazy to type. Back in the day, when I had to walk up and down snowy hills to and from school (uh…okay that’s a lie, I rode the bus. The Little Bus! We only had a small group to choose from. And so movies like Labyrinth, Dark Crystal, The Last Unicorn, The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings, and The Neverending Story hold a special place in our hearts. So much, that now, as there has been, there’s a whole cult following of these movies and stories. Oh! And Brian Froud’s artbooks, which my  mom had introduced me to when I was a kid (she had the book Faeries when it first came out, since she was a “freak” aka hippie.) For us, these tales are a part of our history, and we feel a certain nostalgia for them.

So of course, since we’re getting of the age to be established with decent paying jobs (uh… except me…heh) there’s a market to make money off us.

And thus, Return to Labyrinth was born.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I liked this manga. In fact, I’ve read the whole  four volume series. But the one big let down I had, and many others I’ve spoken to or read reviews of, is that the art is misleading.

What’s that mean? Well, the cover’s done by Kouyu Shurei… and is beautifully done. The manga looks like it’s gonna be shoujo, or even yaoi perhaps. But when you open the book–whoa! Not happening. The art is done well enough, however, it’s obviously not the work of Shurei. In fact, it’s looks pretty amateur. That is to say, it looks like this is the first manga this guy’s done. I know it’s the not the artists’ first comic, and I know he does decent work, so I don’t know what happened.  The Illustrator information in the back of the book says this dude’s done a lot of work before and is award winning–which is fine, since his art’s not bad. But it’s not exactly…how do I put this nicely…the same quality you’d expect from the cover.

Anyway, I still recommend the manga–no hard feelings, because the story does intrigue you. I’ll get into details a little later, since this is such a LOOOONNNNNGGGG intro, but suffice it to say, if you can get around the unexpected art style, then you’ve got a good story in the making. Not necessarily the maturity level of some manga–it’s something that just about anyone can read (in spite the “teen” rating–I’d say a younger manga fan could read this…seriously)–it’s still a fun adventure. For those who really liked the movie (and David Bowie! Oooo yeah,) I’d say it’s a fifty/fifty chance you’ll like the manga. Start it off at the store first and see if you’re interested.

*MAJOR SPOILER WARNING! If you don’t want the end of volume spoiled, don’t read the SUMMARY section! Proceed with caution!*

Return to Labyrinth, Volume 1-Recommended

Mangaka: Story/Jake T. Forbes; Art/Chris Lie
Copyright: 2006
Genre: Fantasy, Comedy, Adventure


Ever since Toby Williams was a child, he’d some how always gotten anything he’d ever wished for–but not from his parents, and always with some price to pay. He has never figured out why until one day, after getting caught “cheating” through no fault of his own, he gets sent to the guidance counselor–who turns out to be a fake. He is in fact none other than Jareth, the Goblin King. Seems the King’s had plans for Toby ever since he’d kidnapped him as a kid, and now the time has come to move forward in those plans. But Toby, reasonably so, wants nothing more than to be left alone.

Not gonna happen. An important history report Toby’s written gets stolen by a goblin. He has to follow after it into the labyrinth to get his homework, which inconveniently was not saved. He winds up in goblin prison, only to be saved by Jareth who makes him attend a ball before he can “go home.” At the ball, he’s named the next goblin king–and Jareth disappears without a trace.

Pros and Cons: Story and Content


The characters are pretty funny at certain parts. And for the most part, they are likable. But I can’t give them a lot of credit in the depth department. I mean, really, these guys at the moment are completely flat-I mean devoid of all things which shape and give personality. I mean, maybe later on they get some dimension, but in volume one, it’s not happening. Toby’s a whiny little baby, Sarah has some potential, but is just not in it enough to see, his parents could have been cardboard cut outs for all I could tell, and the goblins all seem to have the same personality. Which yeah, to a degree they should, but really, they need some things to differentiate them besides what they look like.

Hana’s okay. She’s the faerie. I like her. Why? Because she’s different. And Moppet, too. She’s at least got some mystery to her. I was pleased when I found out who she was, and I recall wondering and wanting to know more about her. So, there is hope for the characters–perhaps they all grow a little bit. I’m not saying yet, since I’ll be reviewing the other volumes later.


With as harsh as I am on the characters, and still recommending this, you might be thinking I’m gonna sing the glory of the storyline.


But why then does she still recommend it?

It had potential. And once I finished the series, I liked it. Is it number one on my list? No. But it’s not bad. Plus the covers are just soooo awesome! And I’m a fool for a good book cover.

I get burned often for that one.

Anyway, down to business.

It takes a little while for the story to begin. As I was saying in the intro, the story is a little immature, seeing as how teenage Toby is too whiny, and he’s always complaining about how everyone’s out to get him. Which they are, but hey, stiff upper lip, boy! Once you get into the Underground and start meeting some other characters that aren’t always griping, things get started. It still has a lot of juvenile humor to it, but eh, I don’t mind a few of those.

Or a whole book of bad puns.

Maybe I’m just a glutton for punishment?

The world itself is pretty interesting, just as you might remember it, but with some new ideas as well. So once you get past all the “fart and crap” jokes, it gets interesting. I especially liked the introduction of The Queen of Cups, Mizumi, and her brood of unusual daughters and subjects. Moppet and her little story arch is pretty intriguing, too.

My problem is that, even though Toby is the main character, he’s the one you care least about. But there are good points to the story, and I could see that I was gonna get into it more in the following volumes.

Overall, it does have some entertaining dialogue and incidents, so I can’t complain totally. And I’m not gonna lie, even though I had these thoughts and irritations, I somehow managed to like it all the same. Maybe, like a slow activating drug, the nostalgia was kicking in?


Pros and Cons: Art

I want to start out by saying first off, Chris Lie is a good artist.

I’ve done some research, I’ve checked out his Deviant Art page and a new group he’s part of called Caravan Studios (just formed 2008, which is pretty young.) I think this will be good for him, cause he’s got real talent, but was probably rushed into production on this Labyrinth manga. You can check out caravan’s website at:

This is where I get a little vicious.

I’m sorry, since I’m not the greatest artist in the world or anything, but this manga was EXTREMELY misleading. And I blame Tokopop for this, ’cause I can’t find any other explanation…other than a forced rush on the art (maybe the story, too, but I don’t know much about Forbes…) If you didn’t open the cover before you bought it and was expecting the beautiful art of Shurei, then you were screwed.

I looked. I bought. I bitched.

Okay, what’s the deal? Why am I griping about the art?

Having viewed some of Lie’s other stuff, I’m very disappointed. To begin with, in my opinion, he’s not a manga artist. He’s a comic artist. There is a difference. I like our comics just as much as the next guy (even though I’m not a heavy reader, I did like Batman and X-men…but need to get into reading them again.) But if you’re buying a manga, you expect a certain style. I could care less if he came from the States or England, Brazil, wherever: you can do manga and not be Japanese. For me, that’s a non-issue.

From the cover, I figured this was gonna be either be a shoujo or bishounen manga. David Bowie in the film is a “pretty boy.” He’s androgynous. He wears make up, his hair is gelled more than any girl I’ve known, and he wears frilly clothes. He’s a walking, talking, living, breathing  bishounen!
A fan girl or guy’s dream come true!

But when he’s drawn in this manga, he just looks kinda…blah. A person who’s previous work is almost completely tech action and army art doesn’t need to be doing a shoujo. Because there’s different line work, graceful curves, delicate lines, and an express attention to detail, especially in clothes. And let’s face it, this should have been a shoujo or bishounen really.

I’ll pull up some examples:

Okay, let’s look at this one first. What is going on with Jareth? His lips are black. Yes, Bowie wore a bit of make up, but the lipstick or gloss or whatever was never dark. This guy looks more like Robert Smith of the Cure, rather than David Bowie. You’ll notice there’s also not a lot of detail in the clothing. There’s some, yes, but not the extreme obsessive detail there should be. Also, this is a good example of “over toning.” There are many places–like the whole manga–that is screen toned to the extreme. It makes it difficult to see what detail was put in. And it was done sloppy. That’s what makes me think maybe Lie was rushed on the job, or just new to screen tones, because slowly his artwork improves and the screen toning gets better. The art speaks for itself, though, on what I mean by “not managa.”

Another example:

Look at Toby’s eyes in the first panel. That is not a manga style eye! That’s not even, like a superhero eye…and it’s like this through the whole manga. His face isn’t well proportioned either: his mouth is a little too high.

There’s a bit of detail in the background, but not much. Granted, this is a scene done at night, so maybe that’s the reason for such lack of detail, but there could be some light pouring out of the window from across the street or something. The characters and whole background is just so…boring. Not bad, but nothing special.

I will put in here again that the art does improve though the series, and the story progressively gets a better as well. If you just stick with it, you might like it in the end. I was so irritated with the first one, that I had to buy the second one and see if it redeemed itself…and it does. I enjoyed the last volume quite well. But I’ll let you read about that when I get the review up!


I can’t stress enough that although I liked this series, the first one is a little tough to swallow. I still recommend it, because it’s decent in the end, but this may be one you *cough* read in the store before you buy *cough* If you do wanna buy it, I have a link for it up top and bottom of this page. You can get some good prices on, and I highly suggest you not pay full price if you can help it.

Return to Labyrinth, Volume 2 review.

Return to Labyrinth, Volume 1-Recommended


Forbes, Jake T. and Chris Lie. Return to Labyrinth. Vol. 1. Hamburg: Tokyopop, 2006.

Posted in Blog: Cerulean Sessions, Blue's Reviews. Tagged with , , , , .

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