09th Aug2015

‘Adventure Time: Sugary Shorts – Vol. 2’ Review

by Jack Kirby


I’ve waxed lyrical about the joys of the Adventure Time comics on numerous occasions, both on this website and to patient and unfortunate friends. And as I have said on all those occasions, I’ve known few comics based on licensed properties that capture the spirit of their IP quite so well as Adventure Time and I am still yet to be disappointed by an Adventure Time book. Both these statements remain true. So what is left to say?

Well, firstly I can admit that whilst this collection of brief cartoons (generally just a couple of pages at most each) charmed me quite sufficiently overall, there are a couple of contributions of the eighteen on offer that left me a little cold. Some of the stories are pitched very young – I understand that they’ve compiled from the Adventure Time Magazine (not that I recognised any of them from it… it’s not like I piked up an issue one time just because it had free stickers… shut up) so on a few occasions the ironised or grown up elements of Adventure Time humour are eschewed altogether in. As they’re so short, each story pretty much depends on one joke to work and on occasion, the joke is either a little too obvious or not quite funny or clever enough.

Thankfully though, the hit rate is high. Particular highlights include some science gone wrong in Silly String Theory (Jay Hosler, Branden Lamb), some scatty watercolours in the boardgame-based A Sword Most Awesome (D.A. Cox) and the welcome return of the why-wolves (creatures possessed by both bloodlust and the spirit of inquiry) in Publish or Perish! (Rachel Edidin, Kel McDonald).

But what is it that attracts so many comic writers and artists to Adventure Time, other than a decent pay packet, presumably? I have a couple of theories. Firstly, the art style. In the television series, the simple in-house style is never deviated from (save for a couple of notable guest-directed, usually non-canon episodes). Whilst Finn and Jake are recognisable as themselves in each story, every artist has their own clear style and take on the characters. Much in the way no two artists draw their versions of Batman in the same way, Finn and Jake are remixed over and over in this book – even more so in the variant covers that are collected and presented here. But whilst the onus with Batman is to stay somewhere within the bounds of realism, Adventure Time is a chance for artists to get surreal. I was making mental notes as to which artists chose to give Finn knees or elbows, for example. The chance have your visual take run riot on what are already quite iconic characters must be very satisfying.

The other attractive element of writing an Adventure Time story is that its universe provides something of a sandbox environment for creativity to run wild (it pains me as a Brit to write ‘sandbox’ rather than sandpit, just so you know). Want to write a sci-fi adventure about alternate realities? Between Princess Bubblegum and Prismo you could do that. Want to try a rom-com? Finn’s relationship entanglements give scope for love stories. Genres such as fantasy, horror, coming-of-age, family drama, satire and parody, even crime and noir have all been done in Adventure Time. And heck, if you just want to write about a psychopath made of lemons, you can do that too. The Land of Ooo is a truly open world and yet is still imbued with a skewed internal logic so all these disparate escapades make sense in context.

Sugary Shorts play to this strength; following through on the sweet theme, the volume is very much like a bag of pick ‘n’ mix, with something delicious and different coming up with each dip in, with only the occasional white chocolate mouse in there to disappoint (FYI, I really dislike white chocolate mice).

Adventure Time: Sugary Shorts – Vol. 2 is out now from Titan Comics.


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