Viz Media successfully travels the depths of the Bravest Warriors’ off-the-wall universe, and returns bearing equally wacky but nonetheless wonderful additions to their Perfect Square Imprint brand. Catbug’s Treasure Book, a narrated scrapbook, distills the sidekick’s essence through anecdotes, lists, diagrams and conversations with Feelex, the AI powering Catbug’s journal. The Search For Catbug, part Where’s Waldo and part graphic novel, features dozens of stylistically diverse full-color spreads from a multitude of artists. The latest release, The Great Core Caper, revives the Choose Your Own Adventure gamebook genre.
"Ward adapts his signature noodle-like physics, black pearl eyes and pop-art colors for a slightly more refined style."
Originally a Cartoon Hangover web series from the acclaimed Pendleton Ward, Bravest Warriors necessitates comparison to its sibling series, Adventure Time. Both stories take place in a faraway future, with a quirky yet lovable cast of characters, drawn with striking similarity. The color-coded, five-member team references the classic adventure franchise format, and openly acknowledges the fact during meta moments. The Great Core Caper includes a helpful run-down of the main cast: Chris the leader, Danny the brains, Wallow the muscle, Beth the token girl and mysterious Plum, the “sixth” ranger. Ward adapts his signature noodle-like physics, black pearl eyes and pop-art colors for a slightly more refined style.
"The Search For Catbug, part Where’s Waldo and part graphic novel, features dozens of stylistically diverse full-color spreads from a multitude of artists."
The similarities extend further into the weird humor and non-sequitur nature of the twisted, if existent, plot tangles. Both series originally aired as shorts on Nickelodeon’s Random! Cartoons segment, and catered primarily to a younger audience. Cartoon Network passed over Bravest Warriors in favor of Adventure Time, eventually gaining unprecedented success among a wider age group. Frederator Studios picked up Bravest Warriors as a flagship YouTube series, targeting teens and young adults. The nature of the medium allows for more mature content, and may not be deemed appropriate for younger fans. Clocking in at a bite size five minutes, the fast-paced episodes dive in to random points in the narrative and are completely episodic. Sub-plots, like the ongoing search for the warriors’ lost parents, attempt to create a sense of continuity. Adventure Time’s primary setting, the post apocalyptic Land of Ooo, benefits from six seasons worth of development. The Warriors have an infinite expanse of space, time and, with Catbug’s ability, dimensions at their disposal. Consequently, based on the show alone, which only recently finished a second season, the lore of Bravest Warriors is in its infancy. This leaves room for expansion, originally filled solely by the family-friendly graphic novels produced by BOOM! Studios. Viz Media’s releases add further depth to the fandom by featuring secondary characters and making the material both suitable and approachable for an even younger audience.
"Real-world practicality does not invalidate Perfect Square’s Bravest Warriors’ line, but solidifies the creative team’s awesome effort."
Unconventional formats are invaluable as reading aids, a fact that bears greater significance for the current generation and their growing inability to comprehend beyond 140 characters. Repurposing popular television personas and incorporating interactivity successfully engages the reader in a more immersive experience than text alone. Real-world practicality does not invalidate Perfect Square’s Bravest Warriors’ line, but solidifies the creative team’s awesome effort. Opening the package of Bravest Warriors’ merchandise took me back, to sitting, wriggling in my seat, counting down the time to my turn to peruse the school book fair.
"The Perfect Square brand launched little more than a year to date, and the quality of their Bravest Warrior titles seals in a successful debut."
Perfect Square does not serve up embarrassingly reductive versions of beloved characters. Catbug’s Treasure Book captures the essence of the feline ladybug with its fractured but undoubtedly funny narrative. The nonsensical sidekick crams the idiosyncrasies of internet meme sensations while looking oddly reminiscent of a Pokémon. Catbug manages to be completely endearing. After spending an undue amount of time oohing and ahhing and shrieking over the impossibly cute illustrations, I found myself binge watching the available episodes. Initially seeking out the original series as a reference point, I enjoyed myself too much to refrain from hitting “next.” I loved The Search for Catbug’s artwork and appreciated that the illustrators were chronicled beside their respective pages in a handy appendix. The fact that the team of artists, recruited from both Viz and Cartoon Hangover, penned the spreads in their personal styles, essentially official fanart, shows off their talent and a real affection for these characters. The Great Core Caper transcribes comedy into gamebooks, which to my knowledge was previously dominated by horror and mystery.
The Perfect Square brand launched little more than a year to date, and the quality of their Bravest Warrior titles seals in a successful debut. The simple fact that a cult hit was chosen over an overtly mainstream preteen source is fantastic. You don’t have to be ten or an established diehard fan of the Bravest Warriors to have fun delving into 3085 with this misfit band of heroes.
Review by: Ameenah Salamunic