The first three issues of Adventure Time: Marceline Gone Adrift were all delightful adventures within the framework of the world of Ooo. Issue 4 is a welcome change, in that all the pieces that were laid in the first three are beginning to come together and bear fruit. The issue begins with PB confronting her spacebound nemeses, the Leaflans, who refuse to quit laying sick burns on PB with space rocks. She walks among them and finds an unlikely ally amongst their teenaged, recently-mustached populace. Marceline is being walked around the asteroid on which she landed, which is home to a luminous gel substance called Glo that surrounds everything and reacts to sound. Finn is feral and magnetic, apparently. Not quite a normal day in Ooo, but not super far off.
I’ve said it in my previous reviews, and I’ll reiterate it again here: this is the Adventure Time comic that feels like it has the characters’ voices down pat. The main series is fine, and still fun, but this one has characters who defer to Marceline because “you’re hotter than me, so yes”; this one has a toy chicken getting stuck to Cinnamon Bun, who rejoices, because now he’s economically mobile. Seriously, some of the throwaway lines in this book are the best comedy on the shelves in a given week.
On the flip side of that, Gran and Pietsch is not afraid of making these characters get serious. The past three issues have had sad moments, but they’ve been couched in much lighter issues. All of issue four has a pervading atmosphere of melancholy that sometimes sneaks into Adventure Time, particularly in storylines about Marceline and her past. The flashbacks in this one are spot-on about those moments that dissolve a friendship when you think it will totally be fine, and there’s a scene when Marcy picks up a guitar in the vacuum of space that is weirdly sad. And remember, these are all good things: all-ages comics don’t have to be bright and happy sunshine (and, no, My Little Pony: FIENDship is Magic doesn’t count). Kids are brighter and stronger than we give them credit for, and life, being weirdly sad as it is, isn’t going to be any easier for them if we only let them read about sunshine and video games. Let them read about that real shit.
Now that we’re in the back half of this mini, I’m starting to have some minor problems with the pacing of the thing. The first three issues, Gran and Pietsch did a great job of setting things up without making it obvious they were set-ups; the Leaflan insults in the first issue could have functioned perfectly well as just a one-off joke about how PB is a leader who does her best, but still has unhappy relationships with other kingdoms, but instead, it becomes something deeper and more functional to the story. My problem (and it’s really a nit-picky one) is that, since this is a miniseries, seeding stuff like that would make me want to see it more regularly, instead of it coming back a few issues down. Having said that, I also like that Gran and Pietsch use the space in the issues to expand moments like PB being stuck in space and trying to fix her rocket, wordless, or nearly so, sequences that still feed into the character.
It will be tough to jump into this series today if you haven’t been reading, not least because it seems like the first issue is sold out pretty much everywhere. But if you’ve been reading, things are finally ramping up for a sense of an ending, and if you haven’t, you should be picking up this trade in a few months. It is definitely worth your time.