Writer: Kate Leth
Artist: Zachary Sterling
Inks: Ru Xu
Tones: Amanda Lafrenais
Letters: Aubrey Aiese
Writer and Artist: Meredith McClaren
Tones: Amanda Lafrenais
NOTE: Although this book has a nifty “3” on its spine, it’s actually a standalone volume with a self-contained story. In the future, I hope that kaboom! makes a running change to exclude these numbers, as they can sometimes drive new readers away if they climb too high. On to the review.
I have eagerly anticipated this book ever since it was solicited. Not only am I an enormous fan of Adventure Time, but Marceline the Vampire Queen is also my favorite character. She’s rebellious and angsty, but in a relatable way since part of her character centers around her conflict with her father, Aberdeen, who happens to be Lord of the Nightosphere (kid-friendly hell). Her daddy issues can sometimes be melodramatic, but she’s just so likable that her shortcomings are easy to forgive. And although Aberdeen can sometimes be oblivious about his daughter, there’s a corny dad-ness to him that’s also easy to understand.
As you may have guessed, this story centers largely around this conflict between Marcy and her dad. When Aberdeen sells off Marcy’s magical axe bass, she enlists Jake to help retrieve the instrument. There are plenty of fun bits throughout the book, but where the story really shines is in its character moments. Writer Kate Leth (Kate or Die!) has an excellent handle on the daughter-father relationship and depicts all of the misunderstandings, outbursts, and reconciliations in an emotionally resonant way that’s surprising for a book aimed at children. One of my favorite moments is the brief history of why Marcy’s bass is special to her, which ties in perfectly to some later character payoffs.
If there are any issues I have with the writing, it’s mostly in some of the jokes derived from awkward situations. There’s a recurring bellhop devil who awkwardly stands around Jake during the dog’s stay in a hotel. The little guy seems to be sweating or melting in some panels, which struck me as odd. And although the bellhop admits to being a fan, I was never quite sure of the joke. Maybe it’s a commentary on creepy fans. Either way, this one fell flat for me.
As for the art, Zachary Sterling, who has illustrated all of these OGNs so far, has a pretty good grasp on the house style of the series, and he gets some great splash pages in. There are generally few panels to a page, and the large figures lend themselves comfortably to an aesthetic that resembles the way the story would be told on the small screen. Reading this book feels like an episode of the series, which works in its favor.
Another creator I want to take time to praise is Amanda Lafrenais and her work on the tones. Because this book is in black and white, one of the only opportunities to add depth is through the different hues of gray. And at first glance, that may seem like an easy task, but the way Lafrenais executes her task can make you forget you’re reading a monochromatic story.
After the main story is a different short by Meredith McClaren about Lumpy Space Princess’s quest for a a globbing awesome purse. Although the story is fun, and McClaren captures LSP’s voice perfectly, the page layouts are somewhat distracting. Each page is four panels with a larger (usually unrelated) image that takes up the rest of the page. This gives McClaren a chance to do some pinup art, but it doesn’t always feel relevant to the story at hand. In future volumes, I’d much prefer the story together over a few pages with the pinup art following.
On the whole, I’d say there are worse ways you can spend your twelve dollars. If you’re a fan of the show or just a reader hoping to jump into the series, this is an excellent place to start. And if the teaser at the end is any indication, there should be another volume penned by Kate Leth later this year. No complaints about that.
Kenneth Kimbrough is a comics historian and writer. You can follow his year of making comics at kennyfromthecomicstore.blogspot.com