Boom Studios’ Over the Garden Wall 2017 Special #1, based on the Cartoon Network animated series of the same name, is a fantastical collection of instant fairy tale classics.
The universe, created by Patrick McHale, tells the tale of two half-brothers, Wirt and Greg, in a magical and sometimes nefarious forest realm. After being lost on Halloween, these two brothers, along with their companions, a frog with many names and a curmudgeonly bluebird, navigate an ever-changing landscape on their quest to get home.
Within this tome are three individual stories of the two young boys in various locales within the strange forest called the Unknown. Brothers Wirt, cautious and protective, and Greg, adventurous and innocent, exemplify the two halves of the childhood psyche and are the perfect lens through which to experience this world.
While the collection of tales lacks any greater narrative, opting instead for standalone stories which wrap themselves up over the course of a dozen pages each, between the gaps is evidence of a fully realized universe, one that’s ripe for plucking. One gets the sense while reading that endless stories exist just outside the frame and that Wirt and Greg could remain here in the Unknown until the end of time without ever experiencing the same thing twice.
The ability of the creators to craft such a rounded landscape in such short space as they have is a testament to the setting and hails to such classic fairy tale worlds as those collected by the Brothers Grimm or, more recently, Bill Willingham’s Fables.
It’s no wonder that the series earned an Emmy for Outstanding Animated Program. While the reader roots for the characters to escape whatever darkness has surrounded them and eventually find their way home, there is a growing hope that escape will elude them, if only so that we might continue to experience the world through their eyes.
The only true failing of the 2017 Special #1 is that it is too short. Upon reaching the last page there is the undeniable feeling that the story must continue and that the lack of additional pages is a lie being perpetrated by an enchanted scarecrow or malicious snow-monkeys. It begs to be read again and leaves you pleading for more.
Over the Garden Wall 2017 Special #1 hits store shelves September 20.