"Adventure Time: Candy Capers" #2 by Ananth Panagariya, Yuko Ota and Ian McGinty presents "Mystery, She Wrote," a self-contained adventure starting Marceline The Vampire Queen and Tree Trunks as they solve a mystery in the appropriately-named Bloodskull Village.
"Adventure Time: Candy Capers" #1 paired the bossy Peppermint Butler and hyperactive Cinnamon Bun together, but the second issue focuses on yet another pair of supporting characters who are called to duty. Peppermint Butler sub-contracts the detecting and being-a-hero job (that Princess Bubblegum previously delegated to him), to Marceline and Tree Trunks through a "Royal Hero draft."
Panagariya and Ota's story is worth reading for its charming, offbeat humor alone, and it was a stroke of inspiration for them to pair the two main characters. The framing plot device is the classic setup where two strangers are thrown together by circumstance to solve a crime. She's a grumpy 1000-year old vampire, and she's a pygmy elephant with the politesse and feminine wiles of gentle, older Southern woman. They fight crime! Of course, they also develop a quirky, odd-couple friendship by issue's end. Such a well-worn premise has the potential to be lazy or stale, but Panagariya and Ota have a light hand, and Marceline and Tree Trunks prove to be an unexpectedly delightful pairing. Despite her actual age, Marceline behaves like a sullen teenage girl, but she responds well to Tree Trunks' emotional warmth, and Tree Trunks is utterly nonplussed by Marceline's ornery disposition.
The highlight of the plot is Marceline and Tree Trunks' confrontation with the seeming villain, an evil wizard. His presence is a red herring, plot-wise, but it makes for the funniest scene in the issue. McGinty draws a simultaneously sinister and hilarious-looking home for the wizard that looks like mound of crystals. This fine balance of playing to stereotype and ironic humor also carries over to the wizard's physical appearance. However, when the wizard removes his hood to reveal "the source of his power," the creative team tips both character and atmosphere definitively towards humor. "Adventure Time" has often been subversive, and it's nice to see that "Candy Capers" #2 doesn't mindlessly rehash the idea that beauty equals goodness.
McGinty's artwork makes the action clear and exciting, and his style is an excellent match for the humor and upbeat tone of the script. Laiho's happy, saturated candy colors reinforce the tone and also stand up well to McGinty's thick ink outlines. It's also a mark of the creative team's skill that their storytelling balances pictures and words evenhandedly. There are purely visual character notes and jokes for the observant reader, like the significance of Marceline's hairstyle in the last scene.
Finn and Jake are entirely absent from "Adventure Time: Candy Capers" #2, and the overarching frame regarding their whereabouts makes no progress in the plot. It doesn't matter a bit. The frame is just a vehicle for Panagariya, Ota and McGinty to offer the reader neatly self-contained short pieces focusing on character interactions. If the rest of "Adventure Time: Candy Capers" is as good as the first two issues, loyal readers are in for more sweet treats.