Adventure Time is a remarkable series in that it’s been able to develop a wildly complicated mythos with very weird and diverse characters, yet remain accessible to children as well as adults. The show’s fanbase now reaches far beyond the target demographic Cartoon Network had initially envisioned, and its ever-growing popularity has allowed KaBOOM! Studios’ to produce quite the expansive line of Adventure Time comics.
Beyond the main Adventure Time ongoing, KaBOOM! Studios’ has also produced five spinoffs and four original graphic novels – a majority of which star the series’ many female characters, something that’s still a rarity in mainstream comics. Their first spinoff series – Marceline and the Scream Queens – saw Marceline, her band, and Princess Bubblegum (working as their manager) traveling throughout Ooo for the most epic concert tour of all time.
Written and illustrated by Meredith Gran, Scream Queens pushed Adventure Time stars Finn and Jake to the background, and gave the show’s most prominent women their own adventure to bond over. It also further developed the relationship between Marcy and Bonnie – which, depending on how you read it, is either a very strong friendship or something more. (Bubbleline shippers, unite!)
Marceline Gone Adrift is a direct followup to Scream Queens and is again written by Gran, though for this series she’s joined by artist Carey Pietsch. Things pick up not long after Marceline wrapped her most epic tour, but while the Scream Queens are more popular than ever, Marceline is having a serious case of writer’s block. Feeling inadequate and uninspired, Marceline decides she needs new experiences to fuel her creative juices. (Sitting around eating nachos with Finn and Jake just ain’t cutting it.)
Just then, Marceline is hit with a lightening bolt of ideas (literally) and is sent spiraling through Ooo like a magnetic monster wreaking havoc where ever she goes! With Marcy out of control, it’s up to Bubblegum to make a terrible choice: does she help her best friend or shoot her in to space to save all of Ooo!?
Where the Adventure Time comics really shine (beyond giving underutilized characters the spotlight) is in how easily the humor of the show translates to the panel. It’s in part thanks to Gran’s knack for keeping these well-known character true to themselves, but also thanks to Pietsch’s layouts which serve the book’s gags really well. And this issue in particular is very funny, with supporting characters like Peppermint Butler and Cinnamon Bun getting some great bits.
The character designs are for the most part on par with the cartoon, but Pietsch’s style does differ in some ways from Gran’s. It’s most noticeable in the characters’ outlines, where Pietsch uses bold colors instead of black (unless the character is meant to be depicted in the dark). This more subtle outlining gives the characters a more organic feel, and while it’s definitely a stretch to call them “life-like”, Pietsch gives the characters a wider range of expression than what’s been shown in previous Adventure Time comics.
(On a related note, Adventure Time comics usually have quite a few variant covers and I’d like to highlight this cover from Brit Wilson as it is spectacular. PB dressed as a knight in shiny pink armor unfortunately doesn’t happen in this issue, but the symbolism is readily apparent.)
Marceline and Bubblegum are wonderfully written, with great care given to presenting them as real people with real problems. Marcy feels inadequate and is afraid of letting down her fans, Bonnie feels slighted by the Leaflans after having previously gotten them out of a jam, and both are dealing with their issues in understandable if not entirely healthy ways. In only the first issue, Gran has written her heroines with believable and relatable flaws, and this will serve them better in the long run and make them more interesting than had she written them solely as amazing and infallible.
It could be argued that Gran is even more responsible for the strong ties between Marcy and Bonnie than the show itself (though the comics aren’t necessarily considered canon). Scream Queens took something that was only hinted at in the episode, “What Was Missing” and ran with it. And it’s very likely episodes like “Sky Witch” – with its strong Bubbleline implications – wouldn’t have happened had Scream Queens not proven so popular. The bond between Adventure Time‘s two leading ladies has never been stronger, and no matter if you consider their relationship solely platonic or not, this series will definitely be putting it to the test.
Already, Marceline Gone Adrift has proven itself a must read for fans of Marceline and Princess Bubblegum, but there’s a lot for any fan of Adventure Time to enjoy. The humor echoes that of the cartoon and the artwork is similar, but different enough to give unique interpretations of the characters. Easily, Marceline Gone Adrift #1 is the strongest start for any Adventure Time spinoff to date.