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‘The Nightmare Brigade: Vol. 1 & 2’ (review)

The Nightmare Brigade #1: The Case of The Girl from Deja Vu
The Nightmare Brigade #2: Into the Woods
Written by Franck Thille
Art by Yomgui Dumont and Drac
Published by Papercutz

 

The Nightmare Brigade is a series from Papercutz, translated from the original French. It may or may not have been influenced by Stranger Things but either way, I picked up a definite Stranger Things vibe from it…and that’s not a bad thing.

The setting is an experimental sleep clinic where Professor Albert Angus has discovered a way to send his two young teen sons into other teens’ nightmares in order to fix whatever their problems are and stop the bad dreams.

The professor’s biological son Tristan is in a wheelchair and always wears a baseball cap (making me read his lines in the voice of cap-wearing Dustin Henderson of Stranger Things). Esteban is a foster son, said to have been found wandering in the woods with no memories.

In the first volume, they enter the weird nightmares of 14-year-old Sarah, who eventually becomes part of their self-titled team, the Nightmare Brigade. In dreams, each one gains a power they don’t have in real life. Sarah can fly, Esteban can pass through solid objects, and Tristan can walk.

Compounding their issues is Leonard, an unstable teen held in captivity at the clinic who, at one point, escapes into someone’s dream. Add to this the fact that Professor Angus’s wife’s disappearance had something to do with Leonard…and that’s only one of the Professor’s secrets.

Across the two volumes of surreal dream sequences, there’s a werewolf, shrunken people, talking trees, an empty town, kids being kidnapped, and a voyage on the Titanic. There’s also a lot of rumination on the nature of reality vs. unreality and what makes something—or someone—real.

The first volume has the wonderful title, “The Girl from Deja-Vu.” The second has the much less interesting, Broadway-like, “Into the Woods.” Both volumes toss us into the deep end quickly and keep building, to be continued again after the second.

The story in this all-ages graphic novel series is credited to Franck Thilliez (translated by Joe Johnson) and it has all the excitement, twists, and turns one expects in good fantasy fiction, as well as a group of well-defined characters.

As riveting as the story is, the art and color, by Yomgui Dumont and Drac, are its high points for me. Done in a loose style, page after page after page I’m reminded of the very similar style of one of my personal comics idols—Harvey Kurtzman. It took me a while to really appreciate Kurtzman’s uniquely cartoony style, especially on deadly serious stories such as in his EC war books and their covers. When it finally fell into the right slot in the roulette wheel of my brain, though, I became and have remained a major fan. Conscious or coincidence, I see that style here and I am immediately a major fan.

The Nightmare Brigade is a serialized story very much in the manner of today’s binge-worthy TV shows. I suspect you’ll appreciate bingeing it as well, no matter how old you are. I know I’m hoping to see later volumes!

Booksteve recommends.

 

 

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