2 out of 5
I liked Ryan North’s Adventure Time comics, even if I tired of the shtick – in the show, and in written form – eventually. He was an ideal writer for translating what was a very (at the time) uniquely weird and silly series into an equally weird and silly comic, maintaining that flavor while also giving it a distinct vibe; it was worth reading the book, just as it was worth watching the show. This is hard to achieve in a lot of the kid-geared cartoon-to-floppy translations, in which you don’t want to / can’t step on the property all that much, visually or in terms of content, and so often just end up with what feel like supplemental additions. You’re reading only because you’re also watching, and not necessarily due to the book adding anything to the world.
Not that every kids show has a world that can be added to, and not that every comic needs to be more than that. There is skill in replicating a format, both in tone and art. However, with how random Adventure Time can be, that replication, in comic form, can feel especially scattershot. There’s, like, no need to really plot things, or even observe an Archie-like formula of leading up to a punchline. You can just go for non-sequitor after non-sequitor, drawing on the cast of Land of Ooo oddities, and end your strip with a shrug and hi-five and be right in line. Boil this down to a short-story format, and collect those short stories together, and it’s a lot of random, and a lot of plotnlessness.
Fist-Bump Cavalcade collects shorts from the UK Adventure Time magazine, as well as an 18-part text story from the same. There are some interesting comparisons to be made between the artists (JJ Harrison, Zach Sterling, Braden Lamb), how they interpret the “house” style of Finn and Jake, but I don’t know if those differences would stand out if you were reading this in a weekly / monthly format, except when midway through, Harrison seems to get license to experiment with a different, pastel-y coloring style and sketchier inking style, and that’s pretty cool. Writers Alex Matthews, Gordon Volke, Cavan Scott, and Mike Garley all replicate the AT silliness and broski dialogue effectively, also without traveling too far off that ingrained tone, pretty much amounting to 8-page entries that are a slew of random events and guest stars, although Matthews’ entries stuck out as a little more clever over the others just being goofy.
The text story, taking up half of this collection, is not very tolerable. Written by eight people, I’d guess it had some automatic elements – like the writer of each subsequent chapter just looked at the concluding paragraph of the preceding chapter – so if you combine that with the already all-over-the-place meandering of AT, it’s like reading 40 pages of mad libs as a story. Credit to the design work (the spot illustrations, borders, the illustrated titles, framing it like it’s written on an old scroll), and individual moments can be amusing, but it took me way too long to read this because there’s 0 linearity, and thus 0 reason to really read from sentence to sentence. This is something that’s probably much better in single magazine format. Even when trying to view this through a fan’s eyes, I feel like, as a kid, I probably would’ve just skimmed this part of the collection.
So the comics half of this set is good, assuming Adventure Time comics which readily replicate the show are your bag, and the text half is, alas, probably skippable. In terms of TPB extras, there’re two table of contents – one for credits, one for page numbers – which is kinda weird, but in terms of fitting all the info onto the page, as this collection is an undersized 6″ x 9″ish, I see how it made sense. However, table of contents and no page numbers always bug me. There’s also a bonus page which talks about the fan-submitted character – The Hat Dude – which made it into the comic, and that’s pretty fun.