The series finale of Adventure Time ended with a catastrophic event. GLOB, a godly being bent on spreading chaos through the dimensions, descended upon Ooo like a geostorm. Friends and foes of the Candy Kingdom assembled to defeat it, but in the end, only Betty, who initially summoned the entity, and the power of the Ice King’s crown could send GLOB back to the nightmare from which it came. Finn and a restored Simon escaped, Bubblegum and Marceline found comfort in each other’s embrace, and Ooo survived for another day.
If the parallels to our own escalatingly violent environment weren’t enough, the first page of Boom! Studios and Cartoon Network’s new, canon-approved comic, Adventure Time: Season 11, offers a haunting and hopeful message.
“I know it looks bad,” Bubblegum tells Marceline among the rubble of the Candy Kingdom, “but destruction is often an opportunity for growth.”
The Candy Kingdom may have needed to sour before becoming truly sweet again, but as Adventure Time: Season 11 #1 shows us, it’s going to take some serious to work to achieve the growth. Turns out the problem isn’t in the present — where the Bubblegum/Marceline romance is very much alive, Simon is a helping hand and Finn, Jake and BMO are amped to rebuild the treehouse — but in a future reminiscent of the one we saw bookending the series finale, which found two new characters, Beth and Shermy, traversing a transformed Ooo.
“The future version of Ooo is not that cheery of a place,” Adventure Time executive producer Adam Muto told Polygon after the finale. “You get the sense that another apocalypse has sort of happened in the meantime. That was kind of something the show was built on, too. Obviously Shermy [who appears in the episode bookends set further ahead in time] has got Finn-like qualities, and these analogies could exist.”
We don’t see Beth and Shermy in this first issue, but after BMO spontaneously breaks down, Finn and Jake are summoned by an unknown voice into a flaming portal, which hurtles them 1,000 years into the future. On the other side of time, writer Ted Anderson, working off a story by Eisner-winner Sonny Liew (The Art of Charlie Hock Chye), introduces us to a darkened, purple Ooo. We also meet two new inhabitants: father-and-son farmers who, as we learn, are subservient to three robots and an unnamed Empress who’s lording over the land.
Where things go from there is the setup to an intriguing mystery, potentially seismic shake-up for the Adventure Time universe, and major spoiler territory. For all the melancholy topics Adventure Time explored over the years, Season 11 inches into uncharted waters: memories, materialism, and not only how we grow up, but how we grow up in the aftermath of tragedy. If you came of age in the wake of 9/11, or are feeling especially empathetic as climate change reports prognosticate our own slow-burn apocalypse, the writing in Season 11 may strike a particular chord. The people we know change; the world we know continually fades into new shades. When you’re catapulted into a new, dangerous future — literally, for Finn and Jake — you can only grasp for understanding and solutions. This first issue goes there in only a few short pages.
But like the cartoon series, Adventure Time: Season 11 is also full of vibrant art — in this case, crayon-like sketches courtesy of artist Marina Julia — and pithy comedy. The musicality of the show lives on in paperback, as does the adult-friendly lore. At one point, Finn and Jake wind up in hell, which could be The Nightosphere or not. The imagination swirls. Anything is possible.
But like the best of Adventure Time, Finn’s evolving perspective on the world remains at the core. Even before the adventure kicks off, Finn is confronted by his own mortality during the simple task of cleaning up the fallen treehouse’s clutter. Digging through old relics, filled with references for the observant Adventure Time fan, Finn steps back to wonder how we wound up with so much junk. BMO puts him on the spot: Is any of it important?
“I mean, they sorta ALL are,” Finn replies. “Or ... NONE of them are.”
Finn is attached to what he knew, and that emotional tether might make his journey through the far, far future more difficult when he learns that the Ooo he knew is gone.