otgw-ss-1Over the Garden Wall: Soulful Symphonies #1

Writer: Birdie Willis
Artist: Rowan MacColl
Colorist: Dean Stuart
Letterer: Mike Fiorentino
Cover Artist: Keezy Young
Publisher: KaBOOM!

Wirt and Greg really stepped in it this time. BOOM! Studios’ newest foray into Patrick McHale‘s Over the Garden Wall universe takes the brothers, Beatrice, and Greg’s pet frog into a mysterious town filled with stages — but no people. Or so they think. When Greg bursts into song, a young woman named Sophie appears, then reveals that she runs the Fantasma theater with her sisters, Mezz and Altimira. She claims they run successful plays with full audiences, but that’s not all that’s amiss.

Convinced by Sophie’s confidence and in spite of Beatrice’s warnings, Wirt and Greg audition to be in the sisters’ next play, and they’re cast! But “the performance of their lives” might very well be their last, if the super creepy final page is any indication. Over the Garden Wall: Soulful Symphonies #1 sets up a unique mystery that plays on specific, but common fears, including stage fright.

It’s pretty wonderful.

Perhaps the best element of this issue is Rowan MacColl‘s art, which increases the tension and suspicion through characters’ facial expressions and body language. It’s clear that Sophie isn’t being honest, but it’s also clear that whatever her sisters are planning, she’s reluctant to play along. Furthermore, Beatrice’s sharp eyes and sharper mind catch small things that Wirt and Greg don’t, and MacColl demonstrates both sides of that miscommunication beautifully.

Likewise, Mike Fiorentino‘s lettering airs on the side of the dramatic, which is appropriate for this particular title. I found Birdie Willis‘ writing in-character, if uneven in some spots, and the incorporation of song into the issue is well done. Combined with the emphasis in the lettering and art, the story is already moving at a steady pace, which is perfect for a five-issue mini-series.

Fans of this short-lived cartoon and its spin-off comic properties will find plenty of enjoyment in Over the Garden Wall: Soulful Symphonies, but new readers can also dive in without prior knowledge of the series. That said, this series seems like it might be best consumed in one sitting, so rather than buy each individual issue, my verdict is to wait for the TPB.

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