Welcome to Hollow Town, yet another strange town encountered by brothers Wirt and Greg and their traveling companions, Beatrice the bluebird and Sir Hopsalot the frog, on their endless journey to return home.
Surrounded by dense woods filled with trees covered in creepy eyes, Hollow Town is inhabited by wooden doll people. This doesn’t seem to bother our main characters, except for the fact that all the food in town is also made from wood. Wirt is doing his best to keep an eye on his younger brother as they try to find a map or get directions home, but Greg is impossible to keep in line. Greg’s carelessness and childish antics are racking up a lot of debt in town—he breaks a grandmother’s teapot while Wirt is supposed to be babysitting her grandchildren, insults the tailor he asked to teach him to sew, and upsets the weaver who’s supposed to be teaching him weaving. Feeling responsible for his younger brother and eager to prove that he is a mature young man and not a child, Wirt takes ownership of these debts and intends to pay up. But it seems that the townsfolk are expecting a lot more of Wirt than he may be willing to give.
While Over the Garden Wall has a multi-volume series and a few original graphic novels, this comic is a standalone book that can be read outside of the main series, with a new creative team as well. However, this book is just a taste of Wirt and Greg’s adventures, and I would encourage librarians to collect all Over the Garden Wall volumes, such as Distillatoria and Tome of the Unknown. Hollow Town has a different style than the animated series or other comics, but it’s still charming and a little bit reminiscent of the game Animal Crossing.
Monlongo is not afraid to play with panels: Beatrice’s wings might reach into the gutter as she swoops in to talk to Wirt, and Wirt’s oversized red hat may extend past the borders of the panels. A character looking out a six-paneled window in one comic panel is followed by the reverse shot re-created in six comic panels, with the gutter acting as the frame of the window. Some of my favorite pages are the two page spreads following the characters meandering through the woods or through town, echoing their somewhat disorganized and non-linear journey to get home. These creative choices keep the art fresh and intriguing, increasing the reader’s engagement with the story.
The writing is a bit verbose; the dialogue could have been streamlined to improve the pacing of the story. The extra dialogue makes some of the jokes and sarcasm feel a bit forced—the back and forth between characters doesn’t flow like a natural conversation, so this slows the reader down unnecessarily, seeming disjointed at times with the art. But the characters are as cheeky and wholesome as ever, and I’m happy for the chance to follow them on another adventure.
Hollow Town will help readers sate the craving for a seasonal fall read without having to repeatedly revisit the animated series. Recommended for readers who like Lumberjanes, Gravity Falls, The Backstagers, and other slightly fantastical adventures for kids.
Over the Garden Wall: Hollow Town
By Celia Lowenthal
Art by Jorge Monlongo
BOOM! Studios, 2019
Publisher Age Rating: 9-12 years old