I went into this review thinking that a book about Adventure Time would be a relatively easy thing to write about. I love the show and couldn’t wait to dig into what is ostensibly a training manual for Heroes and Wizards. What I didn’t realize was that The Enchiridion & Marcy’s Super Secret Scrapbook is an experimental text that would easily find a place on a Postmodern Lit syllabus. It’s kind of like Mark Z. Danielewski’s House of Leaves for kids.
Well, not really for kids in general.
For smart kids or adventurous teens.
Or adults who are smart kids or adventurous teens at heart.
What we’ve got here is The Enchiridion (as featured in early seasons of Adventure Time — you know, the book the Lich used to access the Time Room and nearly destroy all of reality in the Season Four finale “The Lich” that continued over into Season Five’s “Finn the Human” and “Jake the Dog”?), an ancient training manual for heroes and wizards, discovered sometime just before the Mushroom War by Simon Petrikov (around the same time he discovered a mysterious ancient crown). Here’s where it starts to get tricky. Hunson Abadeer, Marceline’s father and the Lord of Evil, has enchanted the book in order to test out a new texting app that will allow readers to chat with each other while reading. In the process of enchanting the book and making copies for other people to read and test, the book has accidentally been linked to Marceline’s journal of her time as a child, traveling the post-Mushroom War landscape with Simon.
So we’ve got two books in one, which would be enough of a draw, but The Enchiridion also includes Simon’s notes from his research into the origins of the book (demonstrating his slow mental decline), along with an ongoing conversation between Finn, Jake, PB, Marcy, Ice King, Lumpy Space Princess, and eventually the book itself, in chat boxes that fill the margins.
Yes, I did say the book itself.
It seems that over the centuries that the book has been in existence, there have been thousands of enchantments cast on it by wizards down through the ages. Over time, these spells have combined to eventually grant The Enchiridion sentience. So as we read (along with Finn, Jake, and others), the book begins to slip its own commentary into the text until it finally has an extremely metaphysical conversation (that owes more than a little to Neo’s conversation with the Architect in Matrix Reloaded) with “The Reader” to round out the Enchiridion half of the book.
It’s heady stuff, even for adults, involving multiple dimensions, alternate realities, and the births and deaths of all existence. Luckily it’s written by Martin Olson (who voices Hunson Abadeer and also wrote the Adventure Time Encyclopaedia) in a clever style that never gets boring or pretentious (except where it’s supposed to be read that way) and the art is always amazing. In the Warrior’s Training section, Tony Millionaire’s illustrations are garish and bold, reflecting the tastes of its audience (warriors aren’t usually the sharpest tools in the shed), while the Wizard’s Training illustrations are amazing woodcut-styled images by Mahendra Singh that I want as prints to hang on my wall.
If this was the sum total of what the book offered it would definitely be worth owning for pretty much any Adventure Time fan, but what makes it invaluable is Marcy’s Super Secret Scrapbook.
Filled first by Simon, then by Marcy, with observations, sketches, polaroids, lessons, songs and other treats, Marcy’s Super Secret Scrapbook revisits a couple of Adventure Time episodes: 4.25 “I Remember You” and 5.14 “Simon & Marcy,” or as I like to call them, “The most heartbreaking episodes of Adventure Time ever.”
“I Remember You” was an emotional gut punch that elevated what was already an amazingly entertaining cartoon into something sublime and heartbreaking. The thought that the Ice King was actually under the spell of his crown and had once been Simon Petrikov was a shock in itself. To discover that Simon had saved and looked after Marcy nearly a thousand years earlier was a double-whammy. And if you didn’t at least tear up at the thought of Marcy missing poor Simon, then you’ve got a cold butt for a heart. “Simon & Marcy” continued the heartwrenching story, as Simon sacrificed some more of his sanity to keep Marcy safe from slime zombies (in a clever homage to Zombieland).
This episode also preceded the season finale, “The Lich” referenced above.
Marcy’s Super Secret Scrapbook explores incidents from both episodes, but through Simon’s panicked realizations that he’s losing his grip and his fears about what will happen to Marcy when he does go mad. Then we get Marcy’s perspective (written by Marceline herself, Olivia Olson) of Simon’s decline, and damn if it isn’t even more powerful when seen from the perspective of a child who doesn’t understand what is going on.
Not only do we get to witness the loss of Simon through her eyes, we also get the story of how she reunited with her father, the horrible things he does (yes, culminating in eating her fries), her befriending of her now undead dog Schwabl, and the motivation for her to hibernate with Schwabl until sometime during the beginnings of Adventure Time (hint: it has something to do with why she’s half-Vampire now when she was originally half-demon). There are also some more detailed references to her mother for what may be the first time ever.
It’s all tragic, sad, funny, touching, exciting, and just overall brilliant. If you call yourself an Adventure Time fan, then there is no reason you should not have this book on your shelf. And if this book is any indication, we should all probably grab the Adventure Time Encyclopaedia, too.