“Adventure Time: The Flip Side”, Paul Tobin, Colleen Coover and Wook Jin Clark take a leisurely path into a strange new topsy-turvy quest for Finn and Jake. Interviews with the creative team have hinted that overarching plot of the miniseries will feature “Freaky Friday”-type body-swaps or mind-swaps, but the most of the issue is lead-up towards the last four pages in which the heroes meet Princess Painting and her father.
The tone shifts into being odd and surreal once Finn and Jake enter the paint-palette-shaped doors. This entry is the equivalent of stepping in Faerie, or falling down the rabbit hole, but they don’t know it yet. As a whole, though, the first issue is sedate when it comes to supernatural phenomena. However, Tobin, Coover and Clark fill this slow build with plenty of action and jokes instead of suspense. The creative team obviously had fun with creating ridiculous quest obstacles for Finn and Jake to overcome.
Paul Tobin and Colleen Coover are best known for the Eisner-winning “Bandette,” and their energy and whimsy are also present in “Adventure Time: The Flip Side” #1. They begin the story with quick and short visual/verbal warm-up jokes, such as Doctor Musclebump’s name and appearance, the tragic dilemma of the pancake princesses and Finn’s “help” for Turtle Bob. Once they locate an exciting-enough quest, Finn and Jake are detoured to “Huff Huff Huff,” where they face tests of their strength and bravery as well as their verbal ingenuity. The setup of these tests is deliberately modeled on the riddles and heroic feats in classic fables and myths, and the wordplay within these scenes is reminiscent of “The Phantom Tollboth” by Norman Juster. Tobin and Coover’s jokes have a level of sophistication aimed at adults. A familiarity with story forms and tropes is required to fully appreciate the subversive ice cream-eating and doorbell jokes, but the action is still straightforward and fast-moving enough to keep kids interested.
Clark’s art is excellent, especially his bouncy panel-to-panel and his facial expressions. Finn’s face changes like putty from his toothy groan-face in the first panel to his hilariously exaggerated excitement over ribbon rewards or a surprise visitor. Like Rob Guillory on “Chew,” Clark is equal to the imaginative challenges of a ridiculous and hyperactive universe. Tobin and Coover’s take on Ooo contains anthropomorphic giant loofahs, elderly bookworm turtles and “Gossip Bulls”. Clark’s pale and opaque color palette is on the conservative side for most of “Adventure Time: The Flip Side” #1, but he uses monotone to good effect once Finn and Jake go past the Palette Doors. Aubrey Aiese’s special lettering for the King and Princess also emphasizes the change in setting and tone gracefully.
Despite these verbal and visual strengths, “Adventure Time: The Flip Side” #1 feels a little too episodic and unhurried in pacing, since the yet-to-be-revealed central plot device was played up as more than just a vehicle for character interactions. That said, it’s a good debut in that it’s a fun read, and it succeeds in creating curiosity about what’s next.