Release Date: May 15, 2013
Written by: Danielle Corsetto
Illustrated by: Zachary Sterling
As far as the expanded universe goes for AT, I’m slightly two-sided on how I feel about the comic and graphic novel portion. I’m pretty much on the same boat with everyone else as far as the main comic series goes: it was fun and well-written for the first 30 issues or so, and now it’s pretty poor both visually and in terms of story. There’s other stuff that’s great, like the Adventure Time Comics series and the Ice King six-parter, but not much really draws me outside of those. I could care less about the Fionna & Cake series or the pretty pitiful Adventure Time/Regular Show crossover comics, while everything else has just somewhat fallen under my radar. However, what I’d consider the best of the comic series in terms of quality, art-style, and story is the Playing with Fire graphic novel.
For anyone who hasn’t read it, I’ll give a brief synopsis. While attending a carnival in the Carnival Kingdom, Finn begins realizing that Flame Princess may not be in control of her emotions (no duh). Flame Princess does simmer down when she enters a fortune teller’s booth, where the fortune teller herself places a curse on Finn that makes him tiny and apathetic. FP, enraged, teams up with Jake to get through the Fortune Teller’s puzzle quest. Jake wants to do things the traditional way and figure out the dungeon’s riddles, but FP’s rage and anger causes her to burn her way through. It’s then that she has a vision involving her father, who promises her a hierarchy of villainy and evil, to which FP decides she should finish the puzzle in the traditional way as Finn would. FP rescues Finn, only for the Fortune Teller to be so touched by the princess’s devotion to her man that she grants them one wish, to which Flame Princess, at first reluctant, decides all the stolen souls should return to their host bodies. Flame Princess finally feels like a hero, but is still haunted by the fact that she is from the Fire Kingdom, and is concerned with the future identity of herself. Annnnnd, it’s never touched on again because Finn and FP break up. Oh well!
Even if it isn’t acknowledged in universe, I think this graphic novel tells a really compelling story that I would’ve liked to see this as an actual episode. Not only does it pose an interesting look at Flame Princess as she continues to battle with her own identity, but it’s just simply a lot of fun as well. I really like the idea of Jake and Flame Princess teaming up, and the drastic differences between the two. Jake’s very different, in the sense that he’s laidback, cool, and tends to be a traditionalist when it comes to adventuring, while Flame Princess is hot-headed, easily revved up, and does things primarily her way. I mean, when it boils down to it, it really is just Vault of Bones with Jake in Finn’s place, but it covers this story so well (and maybe even a little more in depth than said episode) that I really don’t mind it at all. The characters are a lot more vocal with their emotions, mainly that Finn begins to raise concern over FP’s anger and FP herself does not know who she truly is. Is she a villain, destined for a future of following in her father’s footsteps, or someone who deserves to be recognized as pure of heart? The novel constantly battles around with those ideas, and there is some legitimate intrigue as to what Flame Princess’s future holds.
It also is nice, for any of the AT comics in general, that their stories tend to incorporate more side and recurring character from the Land of Ooo. We get a fun little bit of NEPTR being a giant loser, a character who only appeared once in season five, which is the time period when the actual novel came out. There’s also a fun scene using Choose Goose that doesn’t even address him by name but helps further the story, and it’s just nice to see a character like him, who really does not appear that often in the actual show.
You know it’s a sign of good writing when I can read the entire novel in each respective character’s voice and never glance over something that feels out of character for someone to say. The art style also really matches perfectly with the tone and atmosphere it’s going for. Zachary Sterling, who illustrates the second-era of AT comics, actually did a really bang-up job with this one. I’m not really a fan of the visuals of the recent comics, but the expressions and drawings of the characters look really pleasing and sometimes quite humorous.
So overall, it’s a good read. I’d say if you’re a fan of Flame Princess, and her character arc in general, this is definitely a must-read. Don’t expect to get any new information that will someday be important in the actual series (though I’m sure people don’t expect that at this point) but expect good writing and characterizations of our favorite heroes in Ooo.