by Andy Wolverton
I recently told one of my library co-workers that I planned to review my first Adventure Time graphic novel. She asked, “How many episodes of the TV show have you seen?” I told her six or seven. “Watch a few more,” she said, “so you’ll have all the voices in your head. It really helps.”
I think she’s right. Any Adventure Time comic book or graphic novel/collection can be enjoyed without having seen the TV show, but watching a few episodes sure couldn’t hurt. I’m usually hesitant to mix formats when discussing a property, but in this case, watching just one 11-minute episode of the TV show will greatly increase your enjoyment of any Adventure Time comic. (Think of it as traveling to a non-English-speaking country, knowing just a handful of foreign phrases as opposed to none.) Yet, for those with no prior knowledge of Adventure Time, allow me to give you a very brief introduction (and if you’re familiar with the show, skip the next paragraph, by glob!):
Adventure Time, created by Pendleton Ward, is a wildly colorful, imaginative, and wacked-out animated show (and series of comics/graphic novels) about a human boy named Finn and his best friend Jake, a dog with magical powers. Finn and Jake live and have adventures in the Land of Ooo, a post-apocalyptic world — the result of a global disaster called the Mushroom War — filled with such interesting characters as Princess Bubblegum, Marceline the Vampire Queen, Ice King, Lumpy Space Princess, Peppermint Butler, and Cinnamon Bun, to name just a few (and all of whom make at least a brief appearance in Candy Capers). Although it often seems otherwise, there’s always a plot in Adventure Time, but the way the narrative unfolds may remind you of a story told by a highly imaginative child. Or a stoner.
Readers should understand that the stars of Adventure Time barely make an appearance in Candy Capers. The whole premise of the book is that Finn and Jake have mysteriously gone missing. Without their heroism and protection, the Candy Kingdom starts falling apart. One character describes the state of things as “Disorder… chaos… people ignoring their jobs, shirking their duties… fighting… saying bad words… LITTERING… It was like the Nightosphere on Earth.”
Princess Bubblegum realizes something must be done, so she commands Chief of Police Peppermint Butler and his assistant Cinnamon Bun to find our heroes. Peppermint Butler hires a series of “backup” heroes, including Marceline the Vampire Queen, the Earl of Lemongrab, Lumpy Space Princess, Ice King, and many others, all of whom fail miserably and hilariously. (Different colored word balloons are used for some characters, implying the different voices from the show.) Finally, Peppermint Butler and Cinnamon Bun are forced to take matters into their own hands.
Candy Capers has a lot of fun with the hardboiled/detective/noir genres (including a clever nod to Sunset Boulevard), showing us characters from the Candy Kingdom who are hilariously out of their element in trying to solve a crime. Each duo of “backup” heroes gets their own chapter, and like all Adventure Time stories, these chapters venture into the types of tales young children often make up: sometimes silly, sometimes off-the-wall, sometimes dark. Yet, as children’s stories often do, Candy Capers touches on questions of depth, such as “What if I don’t want to be a hero?” or something as simple as facing failure and asking, “What do I do now?” At one point, Peppermint Butler asks “What is a hero, really?” Cinnamon Bun, with a wisdom beyond his sugary-coated existence, replies, “Just a man held down by rules.”
The colorful cartoonish characters and the Land of Ooo are drawn in the same deceptively simple art style as the animated show, but with the comics and graphic novels we can take our time in Ooo, observing its many details. The characters all move with very fluid motions on the show and that’s certainly suggested on the page as well. That sense of movement occurs when characters in one panel sometimes invade other panels. The book also contains a dizzying amount of differing panel placement and points of view, reinforcing the sense of movement we get watching the TV show.
While Candy Capers is a fun romp through the Land of Ooo, it’s not the best place to start in the Adventure Time universe. My best advice would be to watch at least a few episodes of the TV show to get an idea of who Finn and Jake are, otherwise you won’t understand why it’s such a big deal that they’ve gone missing. After that, pick up Candy Capers and join in the adventure.
Get your copy of Candy Capers, as well as other Adventure Time collections: