It’s another wild summer at Camp Firewood in Christopher Hastings’ and Noah Hayes’ graphic novel spin off of the cult-classic film, Wet Hot American Summer.

All seems to be going smoothly until a concerned senior citizen calls the health department, launching an inspection of the camp and its unsavory, unkempt group of teenage camp counselors. After a less-than-great evaluation full of egregious violations, camp director Beth and her motley crew have a mere 24-hours to clean up their act or it’s lights out for good.

Both Hastings and Hayes must be commended for taking on the daunting task of recapturing the wacky, but endearing world of Camp Firewood that has captured the hearts of movie buffs since it debuted in the early 1980s. The pair does an admirable job infusing the characters and plot line with the same irreverence, charm and humor as the original. In fact, the admittedly simple storyline delivers the same sort of silly misadventures and hilarious antics as its fore-bearer, and long-time fans as well as first-time readers should be drawn to the charismatic cast from the get-go.

Coop is still as idealistic and bumbling as ever while Susie is just as controlling and intense when it comes to her passion for the theater. Additional standouts include Andy with his “who cares” attitude, Beth and her dogged devotion to saving the camp, and of course, the unforgettable Gene—who may just have a softer side hidden underneath all those muscles and tattoos. On the other hand, it would have been nice to see more from other popular characters from the movie like Lindsay, Abby, and Bernstein, but with such a large cast to work with, it’s understandable why Hastings wasn’t able to give everyone equal billing.

Equally important in making the characters and their adventures come to life are the illustrations. Hayes’ cartoony style and vivid color palette are the perfect complement to the over-the-top story (keep an eye out for quirky touches like Dead Son’s Pass and the pack of feral children who take over the camp’s wilder tracts). In fact, it is these extra touches that really infuse the book with its clever humor and charisma. The book’s back matter also will excite Wet Hot American Summer fans thanks to the swath of photos from the original movie and memories shared by producer Howard Bernstein.

Overall, the graphic novel version of this cult classic holds its own and will be a treat for long-time fans itching for new material. Newcomers also should get a kick out of the quirky cast and wacky storyline, although some of the references and humor that builds from the film will be lost on them. This book is most appropriate for adult and mature teens due to its explicit language and sexual content.

Wet Hot American Summer
By Christopher Hastings
Art by Noah Hayes
ISBN: 9781684152148
Boom! Studios, 2018
Publisher Age Rating: Mature Readers

  • Johanna

    Past Reviewer

    This reviewer is not longer actively working on our site, but we would not be here if not for our many dedicated contributors over the years. We thank all of them for their reviews, features, and support! Johanna Nelson is a full-time graduate student pursuing her MLIS at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Through her studies, she discovered a love for the graphic novel format thanks to the likes of Raina Telgemeier and Art Spiegelman. While the two may seem like opposite ends of the spectrum, both masterfully combine narrative and picture to create a compelling, rich story greater than the parts alone. As an aspiring school librarian, who will soon be on the path to teacher greatness through dual certification in education and library media specialization, Johanna also loves to explore the seemingly endless possibilities graphic novels hold when it comes to teaching and building literacy skills, helping English language learners, reaching out to reluctant readers and matching each and every kiddo with just the right book thanks to the wide range of subject matter available in this format. Prior to leading the “glamorous” life of a toiling student, Johanna served as features editor for a cheese and dairy trade newspaper that helped to cultivate her writing skills as well as her love for deliciously unique artisan cheeses – triple cream anyone? She also has held several library positions including page and library specialist in the children’s department of a public library. In her free time, she enjoys embracing her inner nerd through watching Jeopardy!, doing crossword and jigsaw puzzles, bird watching, hiking, sketching, and of course, reading whatever she can get her hands on.

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