Review: Adventure Time with Fionna & Cake Swaps Genders, Remains GreatA comic review article by: Jamil Scalese
The boys are girls, the girls are boys! It's all gone mad!
Madness! It's inherent to Adventure Time, a cartoon of unbridled enthusiasm, theatrics and cute-a-tude. It's about friendship, absurd monsters, food and good times. It serves admirably as a kid's show but part of its charm is a subversive humor that nods to slightly more mature themes. For me, however, the overall appeal escapes words. Is it the oddly tight continuity, the nonsensical characters, the brilliant voice acting or that damned snail that shows up in every episode? I still can't figure why the hell Adventure Time works as well as it does and thankfully that's not my job.
My task is to review the friggin' scrumptious Fionna and Cake miniseries that finished up last week. The human/feline pairing are the gender-swapped version of Finn and Jake, and well, the differences are inconsequential from there. Fionna is as brash and bold as her counterpart, and the sassy Cake plays the protective best friend role as well as Jake can. The swap is celebrated in the little moments, but honestly the sex of the characters doesn't matter much.
Natasha Allegri, storyboard artist for the Cartoon Network show, created Fionna and Cake and the passion of working with her own characters is there in full. The main narrative centers on Fionna assisting her guy-pals against the evil Ice Queen. Undoubtedly, there are digressions, and that makes the comic better. Actually, a deviant plot thread makes for the best issue of the series. Issue #4 spotlights Lumpy Space Prince achieving his long-awaited moment of beauty. It's hilarious.
Wherever the dilly-dally takes you Adventure Time with Fionna & Cake is all about the art. Allergi possesses natural storytelling skills, and her work as a sequential artist for the cartoon war rooms comes across in nearly every issue. The series streams ahead steadily, and as a whole the comic serves as a manual on eye flow and page/panel pacing. The story beats aren't enthralling but the interaction and dialogue are enough fuel to keep the train truckin'. Allegri hasn't produced a bunch of comics but understands something simple about the medium: save the big surprises and ambitious visual choices for the even numbered (or left hand) pages! The writer/artist demonstrates her capacity to incorporate impressive effects, including changing styles within a single issue or even the same page. It's an appealing visual journey.
Britt Wilson does her share to achieve that. Keith Silva and I already went off about great her work in the first issue but it deserves heavy rotation: OMFG THE LETTERING IN THIS SERIES IS SPECTACULAR.
The text of a comic can be easy to ignore. In fact, in a way, it shouldn't really show up at all. If it's drawing away from delivering the story then it's failed in its most basic task as communication tool. Yet, just like all art, the rules are thrown out when it's done right. The personalized fonts Wilson uses are a good time, in particular Prince Gumball's, and the letter choices glimmer in the sound effects. Her calligraphy adds flavor, not only making this series a great addition to the Adventure Time brand but a high-quality comic as well.
A girl and her cat are an irresistible combination, and KaBOOM! celebrates their comic by featuring three backups by a trio of young, female artists.
The best of the shorts is a two-pager by Kate Leth. "Sour Candy" centers on the lovely Lady Lemongrab making a cake. It's adorable, to the point and amusing just because Lemongrab, even as a chick, is a riot. Kate used to write for Comics Bulletin so it's cool she's doing big things.
"Cootie Power" (a two-parter in issues #2 & 5) by Lucy Kinsey reminds us that smell can be a weapon. Fionna's refusal take a bath, even at the behest of her closest friends, proves to be a tactical advantage. Kinsey's loose and unfettered style falls right in the spirit of the whole thing.
The backup from the first issue is about winter wear, and it rocks. "Sweater Bandit" by Noelle Stevenson succeeds just because the dude who steals the sweaters looks ridiculous.
Adventure Time is nearly unexplainable and its allure inexplicable. It's BOOM!'s cash cow and in the sampling of this six-issue mini the publisher proves they treat the property right. With competent, talented creators and fantastical characters Adventure Time with Fionna and Cake deserves attention from all fans of the show.
Jamil Scalese is just like you -- an avid comics reader and lover of sequential art. Residing in Pittsburgh, PA, he is an unapologetic Deadpool fan, devotee of the Food Network and proud member of Steelers Nation. Check out his original, ongoing webcomic And Then There Were Zombies and follow his subpar tweeting at @jamilscalese.