After last issue's detour of a solo adventure for Fionna as she capably dealt with the crimes and woes of Lumpy Space Prince, "Adventure Time with Fionna and Cake" #5 by Natasha Allegri brings readers back to the main cast and the overarching story of the feral Flame Prince's struggle with the evil Ice Queen.
The opening three pages are an unusually slow lead-in that brings Fionna back into the fold. Visually, Allegri and Seery make the prolonged entrance worthwhile, with confectionary colors in the landscape and architecture, and details like the "tip tap tip tap" of Fionna's feet as she skips downstairs. The anticipation of Fionna seeing her friends again also builds suspense for what everyone has been up to in her absence.
Throughout "Adventure Time with Fionna and Cake" #5, Allegri's art rewards careful reading or rereading. There are delightful background details like the ice-crystal chicken drumsticks on the Ice Queen's banquet table. The mathematical syntax in the costume construction panel is an unexpected and effective device. In both narrative tone and color, the warm reunion of Fionna and her friends sets up a deliberate contrast to the cold environment and awkward greeting that Fionna, Cake and the Flame Prince receive at the Ice Queen's home.
The page on which Ice Queen registers the Flame Prince's "plus one" is hilarious, and Allegri is able to milk the moment with deft panel composition, pacing and dialogue. The comedy of the entire scene is topped off with the Ice Queen's line, "I guess it’s a double date with one of your uglier fire lions."
At first I was vaguely dismayed by the Ice Queen's socialite-like status sensitivity and vamping, but I shouldn't have been. Suffice to say, the Ice Queen may be shallow and malicious, but she is no bimbo. It's gratifying that Fionna and Cake face a formidable villainess. It makes for a better plot and slightly deeper characterization, and from a political or philosophical perspective, formidable villainesses are as important as formidable heroines.
Allegri's ending cliffhanger is a little weak, but overall, the story has excellent pacing and it sets things up neatly for the conclusion in the forthcoming final issue of the mini-series.
Lucy Kinsley's backup story, "Cootie Power" also continues in "Adventure Time with Fionna and Cake" #5. In only six pages, Kinsley sets up a conflict and quickly resolves it. The narrative is understandably shallow, but still worthwhile because the centerpiece is the arrival of sinorses (horses with heads shaped like noses), a delightful and fanciful invention. Kinsley makes them look weirdly natural as they stampede, and their reaction to Fionna's odor makes for a great visual climax.
"Adventure Time with Fionna and Cake" #5 continues to be a great all-ages title that consistently delivers a great mix of action, character interaction and humor in a very pretty package. It also contains a strong sense of right and wrong, heroism/action/adventure mixed harmoniously with femininity and plenty of strong female characters. Even more impressively, it wears these secondary concerns on its sleeve without ever sacrificing the story or art for a political agenda. Like "Adventure Time with Finn and Jake," "Adventure Time with Fionna and Cake" is smart, whimsical humor that deserves an ever-wider audience.