I have to admit that when I started reading Adventure Time I hadn’t seen the animated TV series, but have watched a handful of episodes since. You don’t particularly need to have seen the TV show to sample the book but, as with most things, it would probably make sense to take a look at the original version, if you aren’t already familiar with it, before reading the book.
Set in a post-modern fantasy world, Adventure Time is superficially about a boy and his magic dog, going on typical-sounding fantasy adventures (defeat the evil Lich; rescue the princess from the Ice King). However, it’s done with an edgy mix of kid bravado and sly winks at the grown ups, making it a multi-faceted jewel that spans ages.
So while your average nine-year-old boy might lap this up and find it hilarious, I doubt he’d dwell too long on the visual gag about what’s contained in the layers of strata that lie beneath the earth; or think too hard about the paradox of what happens when you cut a hole in the bottom of a bag that is sucking in the entire universe. There’s detail layered into this story that puts it beyond a cheap TV spin-off, with thought and love clearly put into both the story and the art.
The illustration is deliberately cartoonish but it’s layered on a thick lining of imagination, expression and characterisation. It’s a coherent, fascinating world, that toys with character cliché and genre stereotype, but is affectionate to its source material and has a lot of fun with it on the way.