Review: Adventure Time 2016 Spooktacular

It’s that time of year again folks: the weather is getting cooler, the TV is playing football, and comics are issuing their Halloween specials. Adventure Time is one of those series, whether in TV or comic form, known for its ability to transcend age and cross-genre. Adventure Time Spooktacular isn’t the best of the series, nor does it try to reach as broad of an audience with its content, but it knows what it is and puts up a good showing by the writers and artists. adventure-time-2016-spooktacularAll of the stories in this special revolve around Gunter, the penguin servant who is more than he appears. The issue stays true to the tone of most Adventure Time episodes and comics, mixing a variety of genres to great effect. While this issue isn’t one of the best examples of Adventure Time at it’s most creative, it is a solid representation of terror and humor. In every story, Gunter's temperament varies from mischievous to destructive as each author and artist take a unique shot at the character’s personality.

A few of the stand outs in this issue are “Wild Hunt” and “Soul Food,” written and illustrated by Christine Larsen and Meg Gandy respectively. I enjoyed both artists chosen styles; Larson gives Ooo a more fantasy bend and Gandy use of colors emphasize the surreal nature of Gunter and Hunson Abadeer, King of the Nightosphere. Justin Hook and Matt Smigiel also have a great story titled, “The Gunthering” where a twist ending gives Gunter humorous last word.

This isn’t a comic that is going to change the way you see comics. It isn’t the best example of what makes Adventure Time great. But it is a solid piece of writing and artwork for any Adventure Time fan.

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Adventure Time 2016 Spooktacular Writers: T. Zysk, Travis Betz, Christine Larsen, Nicole Mannino, Meg Gandy, Justin Hook Artist: T. Zysk, Ruth Turner, Christine Larsen, Nicole Mannino, Meg Gandy, Matt Smigiel Publisher: BOOM! Studios Price: $7.99 Format: One-Shot, Print/Digital


Review: Adventure Time Comics #1

Adventure Time Comics is a great way to experience different artistic takes on the iconic series and contains fun little details that hardcore fans and more casual readers will appreciate. The last free comic book day that I went to was in Lubbock, Texas which, at least at the time, really only had one dedicated comic shop serving a large nerd community in the only major town within five hours in any direction.  Unless you count Amarillo.  I do not.  Anyway, they had a limited amount out free comics, so they separated bundles of what was available into a kids bundle with various Kaboom! offerings and other Nickelodeon-licensed stuff, and an adult bundle that was all blood, gore, and superhero event preamble garbage.

I grabbed the stack of comics meant for kids without any hesitation (I admit that I missed out on 2000AD's offering, which is always solid).

If I'm going to read readily available, mainstream-ish stuff that you can typically find in any comic shop, and I'm going in with no previous exposure to the work, 80% of the time I'm going with a comic meant for a younger audience.  Even though comics like Adventure Time Comics are similarly leaning on established intellectual property, there are a couple of things that these comics do ATComics_001_A_Mainbetter than typical cape comics.  First, there is a huge burden on the writers to get the voices of the characters right.  If you slap a "Bub" on the end of anything Wolverine says, it can pass for his voice; with Lumpy Space Princess, though, I better damn well be able to read everything she says in her nasally tenor valley girl voice.  These comics are arguably more immersive because you really invest in creating a soundscape for yourself while reading them.

The other thing these comics do well is humor: this comic is funny.  Adventure Time is a series that's not only driven by the content of what is said, but in the rhythm of how things are said.  One of the ongoing bits to that effect is in someone dramatically doubling-down on something they're saying.  In "Good Shelf", the final short in the book, writer/artist Kat Leyh uses the comic page to her advantage to break out an individual panel to zoom in on Finn as he expresses himself.

Not every story is satisfying overall.  "Toothpaste Fairy" can be hard to follow at times and "Goliad Gets a Break" requires a good chunk of knowledge of the show even with the cute introduction; but, even those stories have their moments.  More importantly, the best thing about this comic is that it presents four unique visual interpretations of the show's world.  Tony Millionaire's opening page of the "Goliad" story has this vintage, almost medieval kind of feel to it, but with pops of pink that define the Candy Kingdom.  Art Baltazar's work on "Toothpaste" conveys a lot of story moments with simple facial expressions alone: Jake's eyes glow mischeviously from one panel to the next; Finn maintains a flat expression throughout the adventure to set the tone for how underwhelming a toothpaste-themed journey can be.

Even when the art is in a more familiar realm in Katie Cook's "Stand Next To Me", the stories don't feel like storyboards.  Cook in particular really embraces some of the more absurd aspects of the show.  The opening sequence features a talking pancake with a butter hat while the Pastry Princess and Breakfast Princess debate whether it's weird for them to eat breakfast.  The pancake is really only there as a background foil, but Cook embraces how funny this random talking pancake is and keeps him smack in the middle of one of the inciting moments of the story.  Cook's story has a twist that keeps things fresh on re-reading but, even if it were a more straightforward story, there are a lot of little touches like the pancake fellow throughout the story that the reader can admire.

I think some people might hesitate to buy this because it's not part of a several-issue story or a whole-issue story in itself; however, I think the opposite thing should motivate you.  I think it's a great idea to have a short collection of stories from different artists with different visions, and I think it makes for a fun single-issue experience that's otherwise missing in the age of the trade.  There are automatically more ways to engage with and appreciate Adventure Time even if you don't love every single story in this issue, and that's refreshing.  It's also a great way to discover writer/artists who are doing great work elsewhere in comics.

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Adventure Time Comics #1 Writers: Various Artists: Various Publisher: BOOM! Studios Price: $3.99 Release Date: 7/27/16 Format: Ongoing; Print/Digital