It's hard to write about Adventure Time like it's an underground phenomenon.
In reality, the cartoon is taking both kids and adults by storm with its quirky visual style, hilarious gags and surprisingly deep plotlines. The merchandising the brand has got going is quite robust as well - it's safe to say that while its roots are humble, this isn't something that’s purely indie anymore.
I think that's why the Adventure Time comic is interesting. At first glance, it looks like nothing more than an extension of that branding machine: I mean, if there's a cartoon, why not a comic, right? But if you dive down and actually start getting into it, it's clear that writer Ryan North is actually breaking new ground. While it's weird to say that there are things the cartoon wouldn't cover, there's a feeling that Adventure Time's comic is a little more... adventurous?
For starters, the book seems to be content with being very meta in itself. At the bottom of every page there is a line of text that exists outside the plot, but looks in and makes some very snarky jokes. It reads as if North is noting things in the margin for his artist to enjoy, and then decided that the reader should, as well. Also, because these lines aren’t highlighted and are barely noticeable, they don't steal attention away from the main story at all. They remain little tidbits for younger readers to gloss over and older ones to snigger at, like a parent who is reading an issue to their child.
In the same vein, there's a healthy amount of references to the absurdity of certain plot devices, like time travel, parallel universes and romance. Of course, younger readers won’t exactly care about these in-jokes because they likely haven’t experienced enough of those genres to deconstruct them yet – however, they won’t find them awkwardly placed enough to have them lose interest in what’s happening in the “real” story.
All in all, Adventure Time is in a unique position because it’s taking a cartoon that’s aimed at children and focusing part of its energy on the older crowd that feels nostalgic for shows of the past. While it’s by no means dated, it feels closer to stories that didn’t necessarily have to have a moral at the end of each episode, sell a certain amount of merchandise, or try to shelter children from violence, rage or pain.
This translates over to the comic, as well, as depending how you look at it, it can be seen as a “young” comic for young readers, or an “old” comic with young features. It’s witty and intelligent without sequestering itself off from its target audience, and does a remarkable job at staying true to the tone and hilarity of the source material. It’s a rare tie-in that doesn’t feel like one. It achieves its goal of being a true extension.
Also, with the addition of Marceline and the Scream Queens and the upcoming Adventure Time with Fionna and Cake comics, Adventure Time fans will be able to satisfy different facets of their fandom without having to resort to third-party fan works. They will be able to take small, enticing bits (like Marceline’s music, or the gender-swapped universe that happened for one episode) and enjoy professional, canon continuations in comics.
While that might not seem like a big deal, you have to realize that this is a major, millions-making property we’re talking about. With the addition of a comic series that bears the same amount of quality that fans have come to appreciate, the creators are showing respect and appreciation for their base by not selling us something dumbed-down for profit. This is to be lauded and rewarded.
So if you’re a fan of Adventure Time and you’re looking for something more to do while you wait for new episodes, check out one of the comic series. You won’t be disappointed.