What time is it? It's time to get all gender-swapped!
Boom! Studios struck gold when they acquired the license to Pendleton Ward's Cartoon Network series Adventure Time. The show has been a hit with multiple age groups (ie, it's not just a kids show) and it's stuffed with bizarre ideas and non-sequitors. It's the type of show where a gender-swapped episode would not only be attempted, but would also become something of a fandom legend. More than that, it would make sense that Boom! would publish a six-issue cash-in limited series based on that gender swapped episode.
This is no cynical cash-in, though. Boom! was smart enough to know that Adventure Time fans will sniff around for authenticity, so they've commissioned Natasha Allegri, one of the show's storyboard artists, to write and draw the series and to bring a graphic, illustrative sensibility to the book. Certainly, that much is accomplished. Allegri starts off with a fairy tale detailing the origin story of volcanoes, and segues into a story about "baby fire lions" running from the Ice Queen (the gender-reversed analogue to the Ice King, the main antagonist of Adventure Time). It all looks truly beautiful in that exaggerated, overly stylized way that shows how cartooning makes everything possible. Certainly, coming from the world of storyboarding doesn't hurt Allegri's work here. She has a great handle on page layout and on the directional quality that guides a reader's eyes through a page (and a series of pages) while conveying information in an exciting way. A lot of what she does in Fionna & Cake #1 is truly lovely art, and it's great to see happen in comics form.
Narratively, Allegri captures everything that makes Adventure Time what it is. Adventure Time, regardless of gender status, is a show about fun, enthusiasm, friendship and oh yeah, adventure. All of that is very much on display in Fionna & Cake #1, where the two title characters will take a moment during the chaos to say that they love each other. What's very funny about the issue is the fact that Cake will tell Fionna that "stories don't need action to be good," only to get caught in an extraordinarily action-packed comic.
In addition to finding people associated with the show, Boom! has also scoured the world of offbeat webcomics to bring in talent to work on the Adventure Time family of comics. In the case of Fionna & Cake #1, NIMONA creator Noelle Stevenson contributes a backup story wherein the title characters, true to form, end up stumbling across an adventure when looking for a missing sweater. Stevenson's art doesn't quite have the same illustrative quality that Allegri's does in the main story, but she approaches the story with an eye toward filling out the world of the gender-swapped Adventure Time, and with only four pages, she's able to build up to a hilarious conclusion that tonally ties up the issue as a whole.
Adventure Time: Fionna & Cake #1 is a stylish comic that's earnest and enthusiastic and and outright joy to look at and read. It rings true to Pendleton Ward's vision, and will not only satisfy fans of the property, but will also demonstrate to newcomers why it has such a devoted following.