Through their kaboom! imprint, Boom! has found a lot of mileage adapting animated shows (mostly from Cartoon Network, who are killing it right now in TV production) into comics. Last year, they released the charming one-shot of “Over the Garden Wall” to tie in with the miniseries’s initial broadcast, and now they figured out a way to add a comic miniseries out of it. Is it as classic as Ryan North/Shelli Paroline/Braden Lamb’s time on “Adventure Time” or as disastrous as the “Steven Universe” comic?
Written by Pat McHale
Illustrated Jim Campbell
What’s to Love: Airing last November, Pat McHale’s Over the Garden Wall was Cartoon Network’s first-ever original animated miniseries. We loved the eerily sweet story of two half-brothers trying to find their way home so much we published a companion one-shot that was quickly snapped up by folks who just wanted more of this world to experience. Now, we’re expanding the world of Over the Garden Wall with McHale and returning artist Jim Campbell with a full-length story.
What It Is: A new Over the Garden Wall story set between episodes 3 and 4 of the animated series! Wirt and Greg are trying to hitch a ride out of schooltown but end up having to walk. Soon, they come upon two girls playing, and wind up having to keep them entertained so that they don’t wake their giant father!
I understand the worry about taking something finite like Over the Garden Wall and extending it with a comic book. How many times has something like this felt tacked on or self-effacing? An obvious cash-grab that’s lacking the same humor, heart, and soul of the source material? Boom!, however, has shown they’re generally super solid at handling their licensed comics, and for this, Pat McHale (creator of the original series) and Jim Campbell (who drew the one-shot from last year) come back together to create something with a similar vibe to the original series.
This issue takes place between the third and fourth episodes of the series (the schoolhouse and tavern adventures, respectively), which was also about when the series found its footing and took off toward the spectacular. Pat McHale and Jim Campbell effortlessly tap into that more innocent and naive segment of the show where Greg was more off his rocker and Wirt just couldn’t deal. Beatrice is hanging around too, recently introduced to the boys and deeply frustrated by their actions. It’s still more cute, charming, and quaint, with the eerie elements still lingering in the background, waiting to be released.
Similar to the folksy fairy tale tone of the show, “Over the Garden Wall” #1 puts Wirt, Greg, and Beatrice into an odd situation and sort of lets the events play out. After failing to catch a ride, the travelers stumble on this small farm where these little girls in face-hiding bonnets are in the middle of their chores. They have to be quiet though, otherwise their father will wake up and be very cross with them. Wirt messes some stuff up, of course, and gets tricked into helping out, though the girls keep deliberately mislead him, so he keeps messing up more and more.
It’s not a fast-paced story, and by the time we realize how involved we are in their predicament, it’s impossible to not see it to the end. McHale, for sure, is a veteran of the 11-minute animated short, and he brings the same approach to tight storytelling and pacing for these 24 pages. Not a panel is wasted, not a joke is for want, and he and Campbell lead you so confidently through the story, it feels longer than it is.
Naturally, Campbell can’t stray too far from the art style of the show for the comic, though his original style is pretty animated to begin with. He still captures that sort of artisan style and you can definitely feel the book fitting in with the overall tone of this project. His rendering of the young girls’ father is particularly inspired.
Now, “Over the Garden Wall” #1 is a tie-in to the animated series, and you need to have knowledge of the series going in to be able to appreciate it. The comic expects you to have familiarity with the events and actions that happened before; of the characters’ voices, and the atmosphere of the story before you go in. I think it’s completely unfair to approach this as something to stand on its own, when it was clearly designed to be part of a larger context, and works so well because it feels like it’s part of that larger narrative. McHale has even said an ideal version of the Over the Garden Wall experience is jumping between the animated episodes and the comic shorts when you’re watching it. So if you haven’t seen the show yet . . . it’s on DVD in a couple weeks and well worth your time.Continued below
The comic doesn’t feel like a deleted scene, but as another story that time constraints wouldn’t allow to be told. McHale and Campbell approach the book with the same mood they had with the original, and that lends to its authenticity and genuineness. The stakes aren’t quite as high yet in the narrative, but the atmosphere and the interesting world that’s both cozy and horrifying are both present. In any way, The Unknown is not a place you should miss.
Final Verdict: 7.8 – A nice extension to a great series.