The MuppetsHenson Poll is up for you to vote on. We have 2 Poll questions this time. One pertains to "Jim Henson's The Dark Crystal Age of Resistance" and the other on "Muppets Now" airing on Disney+ this summer. Let us know your thoughts. The Poll can be found near the top of the right sidebar.

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Monday, January 13, 2020

“The Dark Crystal Age Of Resistance: Inside The Epic Return to Thra” Book Review by Nicholas Napoli

The Dark Crystal Age Of Resistance debuted last August on Netflix and alongside this brilliant show came new merchandise. Funko Pops, Action Figures, Weta Collectables, Pez Dispensers and many more, including books, my favourite being The Dark Crystal Age Of Resistance: Inside The Epic Return to Thra. This book grabs your attention just from the front cover, The Dark Crystal The Ultimate Visual History Book had the same effect on me. One of my favourite aspects from the show were the settings and the characters, alongside the story and everything else but the first two were the ones I was most eager to discover within the book. This book was a Christmas present from me to me and as much as I love my new socks, this tops the list for me. 

This book opens with an introduction by Lisa Henson, which by the time I finished reading had made me realize how much I actually wanted to learn about this epic return to Thra. I had come into this excited for the character designs and conceptual art, but now I wanted to learn about the new history of Thra and everything else that came with it. I felt the same excitement for The Dark Crystal as I did whilst watching Age of Resistance on Netflix, you know it’s a good show, when months later, the first page of a book, thrusts you back into your excitement of the series. The more I think about it, the more I realize how lucky we fans have been, the essence of what makes The Dark Crystal so special was respected. It took everything that was good from the old and used modern technology to tell a new story with the same spirit, that doesn’t happen much these days. And I must agree with Lisa Henson, the original is a puppet masterpiece, as is the new series, few franchises can consider all their works a masterpiece, The Dark Crystal franchise can. 

The book is broken up into five different parts, “Part I: Chronicles Of The Crystal” touches on all things relating to The Dark Crystal, from the original movie, to the proposed sequel and an animated show. A few very creative people got together and came up with The Dark Crystal bible, the whole mythology of Thra is laid out from start to finish, this is how you properly handle a legacy. As a fan I am so grateful to know that there is a plan, a direction that this story knows it’s taking us. And the most amazing part of this all, is that this bible was actually created by studying the wall of destiny from the original movie. I’m so ready for The Dark Crystal Age Of Resistance Series 2 but at the same time, this book has got me excited to explore the whole history of Thra. 

Power Of The Dark Crystal is the title for a The Dark Crystal sequel, which eventually got turned into a comic series by Archia. I was not aware of this but this idea came directly form Jim Henson’s plan for a sequel, I am now extremely interested in reading this, I must get myself a copy. It’s highlighted how fans kept up with the progress of the sequel, I thought that was nice of them not only to notice but point out too. As much as I would have anticipated a sequel to The Dark Crystal, I think that at this moment I’m happier that we’re getting a prequel series. There is so much history missing from the original, I’m glad we can catch up with that history before continuing the story. I’ve read The Dark Crystal Creation Myths and The Garthim Wars yet Age Of Resistance was still able to add so much more to the history of Thra. They’ve set out a well thought out mythology, I’m excited to see what happens once the crystal is healed, I’ll start by getting myself a copy of Power Of The Dark Crystal. 

“Part II: The Story Of The Resistance” begins to take us on a journey alongside the Age of Resistance production right from the very beginning. “The series was perceived as a spiritual continuation of Jim Henson’s work”. As a child I had no idea what was happening in The Dark Crystal, as I grow older, I realise the spiritual aspect of Thra is what I find most fascinating. They kept all the original elements from the movie and that is why this series works so well, it stayed true to itself in every little detail. They explain why the Mystics did not have a bigger presence than they did in the series, so cleverly thought out. Each main Gelfling is also meant to introduce us to different parts of Thra until they all come together. These writers are truly amazing, they wanted to reward fans who had kept up with the saga for years, and they did a great job at that, whilst still managing to capture the attention of a whole new audience. They went as far as considering what Jim Henson’s main goal was with Fraggle Rock, world peace, they thought of everything, a legacy in well-deserved hands. 

“Part III: Re-Creating The World Of The Dark Crystal” shows us how this world was brought back to life perfectly, so many years later. I think the main secret weapon Age Of Resistance has is Brian Fraud, he along with his family and the whole team were truly able to capture the spirit of the original, even with all it’s updated designs. Brian Fraud’s wife is responsible for the clothing designs of each character and their son, a bridge between London to America for Fraud’s creativity to flow. The world of Thra feels so real, we might forget at times that every character, even the tiniest background creature had to be brought to life first. There is so much that goes into this process, such as balancing the look of the character with its ability to perform the many actions required of them. There is a whole team of people, each of them doing their own part, in bringing this world to life, from familiar names to new beginners, they picked a wonderful team. When watching a “Muppet” production, I’m always on the look out for how the background characters stand, move or interact. Age Of Resistance had a whole lot to look out for, and every creature, going as far as a Podling standing in the background had life to them. This time around, all characters were designed slightly larger, as in the original Jim Henson’s hand could not properly fit inside Jen’s head, I love these little details. 

“Part IV: Shapers Of Thra” introduces us to each and every individual character making up the world of Thra, so many character designs, so much conceptual art, all throughout the book, it’s all so well put together. Gelfling, Skeksis, Mystics, Podlings Gruenaks, Landstriders, Threaders, Augrah, everybody. What I most enjoyed about the series were how different each Gelfling clan was from each other in their features. I really like that they changed the Gelfling skin colour to match their surroundings. Although they look different, the show makes sure to point out to us, that they are still all one in the same. There is so much to explore and learn in this world, I’m so glad this book combines all that history in one place. When learning about Brea they go into great detail over her journal. I’m not sure about you, but when I was watching this show for the first time, I was so captivated by the story, I wanted to know everything. I remember wanting to look through Brea’s journal, I wanted to see all her pictures and designs, what did they mean? Well in this book each page is visible for hardcore The Dark Crystal fans to analyse, so many cool tattoo designs to choose from. Within this part there is also a whole section about the spiritual duality between the Skeksis and the Mystics, highlighting both the Heretic and the Wanderer, my all time favourite The Dark Crystal characters. 

“Part V: Raising The Realm” maps out the world of Thra, locations, locations, locations, this is my favourite part. Ever since I was small, the world of The Dark Crystal, Labyrinth, Fraggle Rock and even Dinosaurs all felt very similar to me, it was a giant playground (world) for all of Jim Henson’s creations to play in. Returning to one of these worlds and seeing in being epically expanded on with this new lore and mythology, I’m a little kid again, thank you The Jim Henson Company for recapturing the magic and bringing it to Netflix. If this is more than just a TV show for you, if this is a world your invested in, you need this book, this is the fan version of having a Thra bible. The book ends with a tease of all the possibilities left open for a second series, they’ve created a world, where none of them want to stop playing in, as a fan, this makes me very happy. “I feel we’ll be able to take fans on a journey they’ve been waiting for for thirty-five years”, they know us so well. The Dark Crystal was a very personal project for Jim Henson, Age Of Resistance proved how much respect they have for the legacy, this book helps prove that fact even further. 



by Nicholas Napoli
Author of 'Politics, Bullies and You'

CLICK HERE to order 

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