Script: Meredith Gran (Main), Jen Wang (Back-Up)
Art: Meredith Gran (Main), Jen Wang (Back-Up)
Colors: Lisa Powers
Covers: JAB (Cover A); Too many people to include (variants)
Recommended Audiences: Everyone
Marceline and the Scream Queens’ existence is a bit baffling. Yes, a team-up between Marceline the Vampire Queen and Princess Bubblegum seems like a natural, if you’re looking for people to star on an Adventure Time spin-off—they’re far and away some of the cartoon’s most popular supporting characters–and yes, music seems like a particularly solid foundation from which to begin an exploration of their relationship as frenemies, given their established and shared interest in it. But once you get down to it, the fact remains that Marceline is a comic book, and the medium is very rarely at home with music, for obvious reasons. The idea of it hits that same skepticism spot Top Chef does: sure, it looks very pretty on screen, but showcasing food the audience will never be able to taste always seemed mildly cruel. To be fair, there have been a handful of comic books that manage to translate the mood-altering energy of music to the page—Sonic the Hedgehog #221 does a bang-up job of it, and I’ve heard good things about Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie’s Phonogram—but still, it’s not something to attempt unless you’re very confident in your mad panel composition skillz.
Of course, Adventure Time—in both its television and comic book incarnations—is nothing if not skillfully made, and Marceline is no exception.
The main story, written and drawn by Meredith Gran is rather thin, spending most of its time establishing the characters and the premise for the mini. The Candy Kingdom is awash in excitement for the Marceline and the Scream Queens’ concert to be held that night—except, predictably enough (*1), for Princess Bubblegum, who considers Marcie’s music to be nothing more than “brainless sound goo” and isn’t afraid to tell everyone, including the Vampire Queen herself. Still, since she’s good people, she nevertheless allows them to perform as part of her SummerFest and allows herself to be convinced to attend.
And wouldn’t you know it, she has fun, and given the art, I can see why. While it doesn’t manage to replicate the mellow pleasantness of Olivia Olson’s (*2) singing, it does convey, as P.B. describes it afterwards, “pure passion…pure energy and love”. The characters do a good job of selling music that one can’t actually hear, even without a beat, or even lyrics.
After the concert, Princess Bubblegum approaches Marceline to proclaim that she is happily a convert, which is just what Marcie needed to hear, as she is starting to grapple with some self-doubt as to the band’s awesomeness. In the end, the two decide that Bubblegum will join The Scream Queens’ tour as their manager, and that’s basically it. For a fifteen-page story, it’s remarkably low-key; for something related to Adventure Time, it feels positively staid—which is weird, in a comic where there’s a rock band that includes a thousand-year old vampire queen and a ghost is playing for an audience full of candy people.
And yet, it works, thanks to strong art and character work. While a lot of the work has been done by the established series, there is enough here to allow the first-time reader to get an idea of who the characters are and why you should care. Meredith Gran’s artwork is expressive in a way that is both distinct from the show and very much reminiscent of it.
Marceline #1 also features a back-up tale, “Resurrection Song” by Jen Wang, which pulls of the nifty trick of simultaneously feeling and not feeling like Adventure Time—in fact, I’m halfway convinced it would feel more at home in Womanthology. Marceline finds a guitar holding a wish-granting animal, and uses it to find the fate of her long-lost (and much-loved) dog. While I’m not sure of its ultimate resolution is convincing—Adventure Time tends to be more cruel, I feel—the part where Marceline actually sings actually feels more like Marceline than the rocker in the main tale—I could very much see Olivia Olson singing about how she loved the dog that peed in her guitar and ate her sweaters. The art, while not terribly Adventure Time-ey, is great, and makes me want to check out Wang’s “Koko be Good”.
In the end, what may be most important about Marceline and the Scream Queens is the idea of an adventure series ostensibly aimed at boys spawning a road trip mini starring two girls. In a world in which it’s sometimes hard to escape the impression that creators—or, perhaps more accurately, producers–don’t trust their audiences to enjoy anything beyond anything other than what they’ve already seen, it’s heartening to see stories like these. DC, Marvel, please take note.
(*1) At least, if one ignores the show itself, which has established that Peebles is enough of a Marceline fan to have t-shirts. But heck, I’m willing to overlook it if the series happens to be good.
(*2) Marceline’s voice actress, who does a fair amount of singing for the show.