If you haven’t seen the original Over the Garden Wall miniseries that aired on Cartoon Network, please stop whatever you are doing right now and go watch it. The whole series is the length of a single movie; an afternoon is all you need.
If that opening didn’t give it away, I love Over the Garden Wall. Everything from the visuals to the weird, otherworldliness of the storytelling that makes the series feel like some long-forgotten Halloween special you’d find on a VHS in your parents’ house. The series left me craving more, so, naturally, I picked up Over the Garden Wall: Hollow Town #1, hoping to revisit the eerie world of the Unknown.
Over the Garden Wall follows two young boys – Wirt and his younger brother Greg – as they try to make their way through a strange, magical forest called the Unknown. Along the way, a talking bird named Beatrice helps the two brothers to find their way home while the various denizens of the Unknown, both good and evil, try to interfere.
Over the Garden Wall: Hollow Town picks up somewhere in the middle of that journey. The brothers, after losing their raft and Greg’s shoe, are left to wander an uncharted part of the forest. By happenstance, they come across a man and a woman traveling to a local festival. The only thing amiss with this festival is that everyone and everything in it is made of wood.
It’s always tough reviewing the first part in a series. Over the Garden Wall: Hollow Town #1 is part of a five-issue miniseries, so I can’t say how the series as a whole will hold up, only if this first issue got me interested. It’s safe to say that it did. The story is paced very differently from the original show; each episode of the show was only 11 minutes long, so the storytelling tended to happen at a breakneck pace. Hollow Town takes a much more relaxed approach which is nice but does mean there is more fluff. Other than that, the story strikes that difficult balance of being a children’s tale while still having that twinge of darkness that makes fairy tales so compelling. The titular Hollow Town seems inviting, but one can’t shake something unnerving and sinister about the place.
The artwork helps to sell the seemingly contrasting ideas of childhood wonder and bleak horror. The comic retains the autumnal color scheme of the show, with oranges, reds, and yellows making up the backgrounds while characters and key items are given more distinctive greens and blues to help differentiate them. As to be expected, everything looks haunting and beautiful, although it does stray a little bit from the designs of the show. (Wirt’s ears look strange when given too much detail.) An interesting method the artist uses to convey movement is to show characters multiple times on a single, long panel. A path or trail snakes through the panel and as your eyes follow the path, you see different snippets of the characters’ interactions. It took a little while to get used to, but I think it helped to play into the warped logic of the Unknown.
Over the Garden Wall: Hollow Town #1 shows a lot of promise. There are the tiniest of nitpicks I can point out as a diehard fan of the show, but not a single one of those should prevent you from picking up the series. If you’re looking for something to get you into the Halloween spirit this coming October, you will not be disappointed with this book.
Creative Team: Celia Lowenthal (Writer), Jorge Monlongo (Artist), Mike Fiorentino (Letterer)
Publisher: BOOM! Studios
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