Spongebob Comics Swimtacular 2017 (Annual #5) – Various

3 out of 5

Off-set by a pretty boring 15 page fantasy riff by Branden Lamb and Shelli Paroline, the yearly annual recovers with a much better riff on Wizard of Oz by Scott Roberts, a great Mermaid Man adventure by the almighty Derek Drymon and Val Mayerik (!) on art, concluding with a fun and surprisingly complex Choose Your Own Adventure text piece by Robert Leighton, with spot illustrations – and a fantastic cover to the annual itself – by Jacob Chabot.

The feature – Krill the Re-Conqueror – is a good idea with some fun visual concepts, but the execution never quite syncs up with the potential, making it both a bit cluttered and a bit of a slog.  A race of Krill  view their whole world through the lens of Harryhausen-type fantasy, with a particular Krill warrior recruiting ‘Bob to help him find his home, the art / narration flip-flopping between the norm and fantasy flourish.

Right after this is The Wizard of Odd, shushing Sandy through a truly bizarre mind trip mash-up of Alice in Wonderland and Wizard of Oz bits and bobs, with some laugh out loud oddities and a fittingly screwball art style from Natalie Andrewson.

Kolchalka does a two page gag that’s his usual fare, but on the goofier (as opposed to cute) side and thus a good laugh; this is sequenced around an awesome pin-up by Levon Jihanian.

Mayerik’s art on the Mer-man bit is classic, and Drymon, as usual, proves to be a master of smart-dumb humor, as our hero misuses lame Magic tricks to sort of maybe save the day.

The CYOA that closes things out seems like a park, but Leighton actually goes the whole nine yards with criss-crossing directions, funny deaths, and that onw true ending you cheat to achieve.

A good balance of strips overall, but a bummer to lead with the bummer.