If you enjoyed Cartoon Network’s animated miniseries Over the Garden Wall – a gorgeous, heartfelt, occasionally tear-jerking adventure in classic fairy-tale absurdity – I’m happy to inform you that you’re going to love the comic book series for the additional time we get to spend with Wirt, Greg, and Beatrice.
Both issues of the comic are set between episodes of the show so as not to interfere with the miniseries’ ending, and this is a brilliant decision on the part of the writers. While the miniseries episodes presented you with talking animals and magic in the matter-of-fact, ‘this is just how things are in this world’ way fairy tales employ, the comics employ the same tone but also fill in additional gaps in the story. If you were the sort of kid who asked “but wait, how did they get out of the castle at the end?” or “but where did the horse come from?”, these comics are for you. Issue #1 is set between episodes 3 and 4 of the miniseries, and answers the burning question of “when did they jump into the back of a cart?” in case that was a pressing concern. Issue #2 is set between episodes 4 and 5, and finally gives us the secret origins of Fred the Horse.
The Over the Garden Wall comic book is a great way for fans of the original miniseries to spend more times with the character and world we grew so close to in such a short time. The characters all sound like themselves – a really easy pitfall when writing prequel or in-between spinoff works is to fill all the dialogue with throwaway lines that foreshadow a character’s ultimate fate in the original series, but that’s mercifully been avoided here. The comics make sure to stay in the moment, and aren’t treated like flashbacks or exposition. It’s difficult to explain how the comic books feel here: if you’ve ever been told a bedtime story and asked “but what happened to the farmer?” and the person telling the story had another story to tell that answered your extra question but didn’t exactly fit into the main plot of their original story for brevity’s sake, the comics feel like that. They’re stories in between the main plot, additional details that didn’t need to be included in the main story but are welcome additions to the fairy tale you fell in love with.
That, I think, is the strength of the Over the Garden Wall comics – the return to the tone and mood of the original miniseries is flawless. The story (written by series creator Pat McHale) has the perfect mixture of whimsy, silliness, and occasional darkness that made the miniseries so memorable, the art is a joy to take in as the characters explore and travel through lush backgrounds drawn by Jim Campbell, who also helped storyboard the original series. The overall experience is familiar and comforting as we see more of the characters we love so much, and as we get insight into characters we didn’t stop to really wonder about during the show (Fred the Horse’s tragic past is a highlight, as is the appearance of someone we last saw interrupting Wirt in the tavern) we get some new stories to wonder and theorize about. The demand for the initial one-shot Over the Garden Wall comic book was great enough to lead to this series of comics, and I’m hoping the reception of the comics leads to even more material and story from this world. There’s so much more to explore and so much more to learn about – the expansion of the universe in ways that nobody saw coming is proof enough of that, even without the obvious question of “what happened when the show ended?”
The art doesn’t quite match up to the gorgeous, flowing animation of the miniseries (what comic book could?), but the writing is as strong as ever and everything you loved about the show is present in the comic books. I can’t wait for issues three and four, and hopefully for the announcement that there’s another miniseries or comic series on the way. Whatever happens next and wherever Wirt and Greg’s wandering takes them, I will definitely be along for the ride.
Story: Pat McHale Art: Jim Campbell
Story: 10 Art: 9 Overall: 9.5 Recommendation: Buy
BOOM! Studios provided Graphic Policy with free copies of both issues for review, but Daphne bought her own anyway.