Licensed property comics are always a tricky task for a creator–coming up with a fresh, new story with your own take, while still making sure it fits into a larger canon is not so easy. With this volume that collects issues 1 through 4 of the new *Over the Garden Wall* ongoing series, Jim Campbell, Danielle Burgos, Amalia Levari, Cara McGee, Whitney Cogar, and Warren Montgomery come together to try and make their mark on Cartoon Network’s wayward brothers.
Over the Garden Wall Vol. 1 (KaBOOM!)
In the first story, Campbell takes Wert and Greg back into the Dreamland section of the Unknown, getting the kids into all manner of adventure including gnomes and squirrels and ducks and beavers, all to the wonderment of Greg and worry of Wert.
The second story, written by Levari with art by McGee, colors by Cogar and letters by Montgomery, tells the tale of the Woodcutter’s Daughter in the time before the show, when she was attempting to figure out how to be alone as her dad was off and away from the home.
Both stories, told in parallel chunks in single issues but now one then the other in this collection, are absolutely charming. Campbell shows off what he gained working on the cartoon as a storyboard artist by giving us more of what we love. His art is not quite the same as the animation so it feels like a separate entity in a different medium, but it is still very much in the same ballpark, so as Greg wanders his way through the Unknown once more, it all feels familiar, rather than jarring.
McGee’s line work also feels recognizable, though it skews more towards an antique feel with the cross-hatching she does. Considering her’s is the prequel story, set in a world that feels antique as it is, the art in this half felt like a natural extension of what had been established in show.
Despite feeling visually appropriate though, the comic doesn’t quite come together for me, and it’s the story that stumbles. Again, the work of adaptation from medium to medium is tough. One of the biggest tasks is making sure you justify just why your story needs to be added to what’s come before, and I don’t think these stories quite achieve that. And really, it’s not all their fault; the *Over the Garden Wall* mini-series was such a tight narrative that it’s hard to squeeze anything else in. After such a satisfying conclusion on screen, is it that much fun to see a return to where we were?
For me, so much of the fun of the show was the mystery and ambiguity of a the world that, while comprised of bizarre characters, had a sense of groundedness to it. So to focus on the most whimsical and, well, cartoonish, side of things isn’t quite as satisfying as a tale set in “main” world of the Unknown. While the boys certainly could have come across a talking squirrel in the show, it’d been more likely dressed in a suit and tie, and the difference is felt. Prequels are even more challenging to justify in a satisfying way, and when the untold story of the Woodcutter’s Daughter is “she drifts around her house a lot”, despite its heartwarming feel by the end, perhaps we’re answering questions that were more fun answered in our heads than in our comics.
That all said, this is a really solid outing. The tone, look, and character work really honors the show well, but I look forward to stories that push the boundaries and explore the Unknown more actively. This is merely volume one, however, so they have plenty of room to and explore new ground.
Besides, my opinions are mostly just based on rock facts.