Adventure Time Vol. 13
Christopher Hastings (Writer), Ian McGinty (Artist), Maarta Laiho (Colors), Mike Fiorentino (Letters)
December 26, 2017
Adventure Time Volume 13 is an epic story involving dungeons, space-time paradoxes, personal sacrifice for the greater good, and a look into the past. It starts with a visit to Finn’s childhood dungeon that his adopted dog-father Joshua made for his hero training. From there, Finn and Jake decide to make their own dungeon, though they quickly realize that this is a bad idea. The story, written by Christopher Hastings, is in the true spirit of Adventure Time, and aligns with the character of Finn and his heartfelt desire to help anyone, no matter who they are or what it takes. The wholesome ferocity of Finn’s loyalty to his community and his world shines in the story woven by Hastings and artist Ian McGinty.
It’s clear that Hastings has a lot of skill with Land of Ooo, which makes sense given his tenure as the resident Adventure Time writer at kaBOOM! Studios since Ryan Q North left in 2014. Reading this volume feels like reading an episode of the animated series. The writing, the dialogue, even the voices of side characters in the story that have never been introduced before imitate the tone, silliness, and amusing word choices from the original Cartoon Network show. It is so immersive and believable that I was not taken aback by anything a character said, or chose to do, as I have been with some other Adventure Time comics.
One line that caught my interest particularly was from BMO early on in the comic. His reaction to an excited discussion between Finn and Jake about making a dungeon is a punctuated with “Bad guys make dungeons.” This is an interesting idea, firstly because the story began against the backdrop of a dungeon that Finn’s adopted father made for him. Does this make the magic dog Joshua, father of Jake and adopted father of Finn, a villain in some sense? Most likely not, but it was something that made me stop and think.
After that, I expected some kind of evil twist where Finn and Jake become dark dungeon builders. And the story seemed to be leading in that direction, too … until the skilled arrival of several major plot devices that would require Finn to engage in a space-time paradox to save Earth, Ooo, and all the worlds that are to come after. These delightful developments truly suck the reader in, because the ending has become unpredictable. As a result, the climax reveal is “mathematical”, as Finn would say.
The art is a huge part of the full world immersion that happens in Adventure Time Volume 13. Ian McGinty illustrates the story with a deft hand to match Hastings’ experienced writing. The illustrative work is so much like the art in the cartoon that it is hard to believe McGinty is not responsible for the original animation.
Often in the original animated series, the artwork would change from simple to incredibly complex in a matter of seconds, for the purpose of either disturbing or amusing the audience. McGinty’s monsters involve detail, but his central characters still maintain artistic minimalism in their expressions for most of the story. McGinty uses these and other creative techniques to give a rewarding atmosphere to this rich Adventure Time tale about a magical moon sword and Earth before the Mushroom War.
Audiences who know the show may remember the Mushroom War, and that there has been confirmation from creator Pendleton Ward that the Land of Ooo is Earth in the far future after a series of post-apocalyptic events. McGinty includes some enjoyable scenes involving Earth in the past; rarely do Adventure Time comics touch on Earth in the days before Ooo. There are a few times that the licensed comics have entered that realm, but it is generally left to the staff of the animated series. Here McGinty boldly includes funny scenes involving astronauts of the past, lending another rich layer of enjoyment to this volume.
The true essence of Adventure Time is harder to distill nowadays, with 274 episodes and multiple animators throughout the years since its official launch in 2010. Is it still just a story about two swashbuckling heroes, out to protect the Land of Ooo? Or has it developed into a fully-realized world, where licensed comics have been given more freedom to play with the available characters and settings that Pendleton Ward’s vast creations encompass? Like any fictional world that has a legacy of some kind, the Land of Ooo has its core principles that remain unchanged. Finn’s sacrificial nature, though sometimes blind, is the primary driver for much of the heroism he displays. It is also another reason to enjoy this last Adventure Time graphic novel release of 2017. It is fitting that this year, we all be reminded in some way of what it means to serve our community, even if a silly, yet sincere graphic novel like this is the instrument that reminds us.