Review - Over the Garden Wall: Soulful Symphonies #1 (@boomstudios)

"Greg, we haven't seen any tigers."

When traveling through an unknown town there are plenty of things to be on the lookout for. One major red flag is if the entire town is empty, like in Over the Garden Wall: Soulful Symphonies #1 from BOOM! Studios. The issue is written by Birdie Willis, illustrated by Rowan MacColl, colored by Dean Stuart and lettered by Mike Fiorentino.

While traveling through an abandoned town in the Unknown, Greg's singing catches the attention of a mysterious young woman named Sophie who requests the song as a gift. Greg gives her the song, and in exchange, Sophie leads the group to an old theater where her family convinces the boys to audition for their new play! Suspicious, Beatrice warns Greg and Wirt about the mysterious circumstances, Wirt almost sides with her until she also says that Wirt would probably be a terrible main lead anyway. Determined to prove her wrong, Wirt decides to stay. After all the show must go on.

Willis' script in the issue is very amusing, as it boasts a great rapport amongst the main characters as they travel through a seemingly deserted town. In fact, much of the issue is spent building up how empty the town is, before Willis shows the reader the main thrust of the issue (and presumably series) in the form a semi-abandoned theater short a couple of performers. Because the premise is about performing, Willis works in a few instances of characters breaking into song to give the issue a musical feel and it works pretty well. Willis has a very firm grasp on what makes each character tick, something that's reflected in the dialogue that draws the reader in effortlessly. The end of the issue also offers the requisite first issue cliffhanger that seems to offer a glimpse into a possibly devious plot unfolding at the theater.

Considering the relative simplicity of the book's art, MacColl still manages to infuse the characters with elaborate expressions that aid the story tremendously. MacColl's linework is simple yet elegant, allowing each character's thoughts to express themselves quite nicely through animated facial expressions. The abundance of shading and cross-hatching lends itself well to the issue, as MacColl seems to have taken inspiration from newspaper comic strips. The panels are very neatly arranged and provide for an organized read. Stuart's colors are softer, but allow the characters' distinct costumes to really stand out.

Over the Garden Wall: Soulful Symphonies #1 is a very lighthearted first issue that capitalizes on the property well. The familiar characters find themselves in an unfamiliar town, albeit one that will likely hew closely to another one of their previous adventures. Pulling off any sort of musical is a feat in and of itself so kudos to Willis for working it into the issue without it becoming overbearing. MacColl's artwork does a marvelous job of conveying the sense of wonder that accompanies the book's overall aesthetic. Over the Garden Wall: Soulful Symphonies #1 is deceptively complex in its presentation.

Over the Garden Wall: Soulful Symphonies #1 is available now.