1/30/2013

Adventure Time with Fionna and Cake #1


Story and Art: Natasha Allegri, Noelle Stevenson
Letters: Britt Wilson
Covers: Jen Bennett, Lisa Moore, Joe Quinones, Vera Brosgol, Ethan Rilly, Becky Dreisdadt, Frank Gibson, Sina Grace, S. Steven Struble, Colleen Coover, Natasha Allegri, Penelope Gaylord, Emily Warren, Stephanie Gonzaga, Yssa Badiola, Kassandra Heller

Adventure Time created by Pendleton Ward

The highly popular Adventure Time television episode "Fionna and Cakefunctioned as affectionate commentary on the often-used fan fiction device of gender-swapping well-liked characters (as well as a critique to fans who habitually insert themselves as a Mary Sue character into their own fiction). So it was probably inevitable that the publisher would release a comic book adaptation of this premise once the cartoon was determined to be successful in its comic book incarnation. Written and drawn by Natasha Allegri,  the character designer for that very episode, the comic seeks to be a worthy companion to the Ryan North penned series.

At its core, AT accurately maps out a kid's imagination at work. The viewer could simply accept at face value the idea that Finn the human and Jake the dog are heroes who thrive in a post-apocalyptic world. But at the meta-level, they could just as easily be thought of as the daydreams of a young boy playing in the backyard with his dog, or a group of friends entertaining themselves with their favorite fantasy-based RPG. The Land of Ooo is a comforting place where its young protagonist faces, and usually defeats, all varieties of monsters and demons while attempting to understand the mysteries of the opposite sex. The series is known for the large array of princesses Finn often interacts with, most notably by rescuing them from the clutches of the socially maladjusted Ice King. Then there's the unobtainable Princess Bubblegum whom Finn pines after, and the bewitching Marceline the Vampire Queen, whose friendship is the closest thing he has to a platonic relationship with a girl. Given how Finn-centric the show is, gender-swapping the roles significantly changes the dynamic of the stories.

Natasha does a very good job modulating the characters away from their familiar TV series portrayals. This comic begins with a bittersweet fairy tale about the origin of volcanoes which is drawn with a sensuous line not often seen in the show. Her color palette of warm reds and oranges balanced out by deep blues and pale grays is exquisite. And the type employed by Britt Wilson effectively compliments her art. The scene shifts to Cake narrating this tale to a dour Fionna, who objects to the lack of  "butt-punching" within the story. There's a lovely intimacy between them demonstrated in the humor and the body language. Cake enfolds her friend like a motherly serpent with her elastic body while an upset Fionna tightly hugs a Cake doll. While their camaraderie is similar to that of Finn and Jake, there's a certain emotional intensity that sets Fionna and Cake apart. Fionna comes across as slightly more subdued and introverted. Cake on the other hand isn't as relaxed and easygoing as Jake, and possesses a rather intimidating appearance when she bares her fangs. The funniest scene in the comic is when Cake tries to convince Fionna to choose from several unreliable-looking swords she handcrafted for her. Ever dubious, Fionna tentatively asks if the kitty litter sword still has poo in it, which sets off a comical overreaction.

The main story ends all-too abruptly with a cliffhanger as the duo is about to engage the Ice Queen in combat. However, Noelle Stevenson's silly backup story is delightful to look at, and fans will be amused at the indignant expressions on the faces of Prince Gumball and Vampire King Marshall Lee complaining about the relative value of sweaters. And hey, those two will appear in an upcoming episode to facilitate more gender-bending goodness.