Review: 'Clarence' #1

Niccolo Mejia ‘16 / Emertainment Monthly Contributor

Clarence #1 cover. Image Credit: BOOM! Studios
Clarence #1 cover. Image Credit: BOOM! Studios

New from BOOM! Studios is the first issue of Clarence, an adaptation of Cartoon Network’s animated series of the same name. Considering the positive reception of the show and the success of other Cartoon Network adaptations, such as Adventure Time and Steven Universe, it was only a matter of time until this series came out. Fortunately, the BOOM! staff has experience with not only keeping the heart of the shows they adapt, but also keeping the content fresh.

The issue has the exact pacing of an episode of Clarence, which is exactly what a comic like this should go for, especially considering the target audience. It was enjoyable to see an adaptation like this keep so close to the source material structurally, without outright copying the approach. Through this, and the actions of the characters, the reader doesn’t feel like they’re experiencing anything short of the show itself.

This first story sets up character dynamics for those new to Clarence as well. It is made clear early on that Clarence is not the unifying entity that keeps Jeff and Sumo friends, and that they remain friends despite their differences while Clarence isn’t around. But that isn’t where the similarities between the two works end. Cartoon Network saw its first on-air gay kiss in 2014 with Clarence, and the show continues to include LGBT characters into the mix of its cast. Jeff’s two mothers are included in this issue as well, which only establishes writer Liz Prince’s credibility even more for making this aspect of Clarence a reality even within this adaptation.

Clarence #1 Jackpot Cover by Scott Maynard. Image Credit: BOOM! Studios
Clarence #1 Jackpot Cover by Scott Maynard. Image Credit: BOOM! Studios

The visual art of this issue comes out through its backgrounds, keeping things wide and spacious in typical Clarence fashion. There is an emphasis on wide, detailed backgrounds that place the character believably. The wide skies and how the outdoors is drawn in general has a nostalgic feel to it, putting the reader directly into this setting of childhood and absurdity. Character designs, though for the most part unchanged from the animated series, are played with in interesting ways due to angles more typically used in comics. A good example of this is the way the artist twists Jeff’s body while he’s giving a presentation on a screen with a pointer.

As a good “Slice of Life” art piece, Clarence #1 appeals to some real world issues, showing that children are capable of grasping big concepts. In this issue, Clarence uses a worm and a toy soldier as puppets for a narrative much more mature than he would be expected to create.

“I love you, but I have to go to war. — No you don’t, because I’m the president, and I make the wars.”

It’s not just about the fact that Clarence knows these things, however. What makes this such a striking moment is the idea that this is what Clarence does for fun. The interplay here between comedy and the harsh realities of life is what made great 90’s cartoons like Hey Arnold! and is slowly becoming the defining quality of the new renaissance of animation as well.

This issue of Clarence receives a 9/10. The art and characters were true to the show, but this single story did not include enough setting or cast to deserve the full 10/10. It does, however, raise hopes high for improvement on these aspects during the next three waiting in store!

Overall Rating: 9/10

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