Ryan North, Shelli Paroline and Braden Lamb's "Adventure Time" #31 is an odd duck of a story in which Princess Bubblegum and Marceline become licensed drivers, Finn and Jake try to eat a massive burrito, and The Ice King demands answers for why Finn and Jake didn't show up for his birthday party. Yet, all these seemingly disparate ideas come together into a surprisingly funny and emotional story. The issue also contains a funny (and more than a little disturbing) short by Sara and Sam Ellis entitled "Lemongrab's Makeover."
Its impressive how much emotion North is able to cram into a mostly hilarious and off-the-wall story, but by relying on the complicated and nuanced characters and the boundless creativity of the "Adventure Time" world, the laughs and deeper emotions flow effortlessly. Ice King in particular strikes a desperately sad and relatable note in his quest for friends and acceptance, but North never pushes the story too far, instead allowing Ice King to snap back easily once Finn and Jake present him with an adorable present. All the while, North embraces the "meta" in the story by having Finn and Jake offer commentary on their on-again off-again relationship with The Ice King.
Of course, Paroline and Lamb's visuals are a huge part of what makes the issue work. They absolutely nail all the characters, capitalizing on their cuteness and bringing an enthusiasm that is practically contagious to the pages. North's script is surprisingly text heavy, but Paroline and Lamb make the most of the space they have. In reality -- except for the stuff with Princess Bubble Gum and Marceline -- the story is actually a lot of rather mundane scenes, but in Paroline and Lamb find ways to keep even talking heads engaging.
The "Lemongrab's Makeover" short has less to say but it's surprisingly dark without going too far, as any Lemongrab story probably should be. The tale, though simple and short, speaks volumes about both Lemongrab and The Ice King. Sam Ellis's visual approach is less "on-model" than Paroline and Lamb's, but it's still easy to recognize all the characters and captures what's most important about the characters and world while telling an easy to follow story.
"Adventure Time" continues to be a nearly flawless example of adapting one medium to another. The writers and artists continue to capture, with seeming effortlessness, what makes the "Adventure Time" world so creative and exceptional, "Adventure Time" #31 is no exception.