Back when I had far more free time than I do now, I kept a dream diary and tried to practice lucid dreaming, in order to better understand my day-to-day existence and how my subconscious dealt with my issues (and, I’ll admit, to pinpoint when I had those weird prophetic dreams that often come across as deja vu in waking life.) As such, tales of dream exploration are always a draw for me, with The Nightmare Brigade series sounding right up my alley from the start.
Esteban and Tristan are the children of dream scientist Professor Albert Angus, who is a therapist of last resort for people whose nightmares interfere with their waking lives. In order to help these patients, he sends Esteban and Tristan into their dreams while himself monitoring the situation from the outside. Once inside the patients’ dreamscapes, our teenage heroes attempt to figure out the psychological puzzle that underpins the dreamers’ trauma, while trying to stay out of the life-threatening situations that often spring up during the course of these nightmares. It’s dangerous work, but both kids enjoy helping people get better. Plus Tristan is no longer confined to his wheelchair in dreams, which is almost as much a bonus for him as solving the mysteries of dreamers’ troubled psyches.
Their latest case involves another teenager named Sarah, whom Esteban thinks he recognizes, or who at least evokes in him a strong feeling of deja vu. Esteban actually has very little recollection of his life from before he was adopted by Professor Angus, and wonders if Sarah might hold the key to his past. Before they have a chance to find out tho, Professor Angus reveals several devastating secrets about his own past that could very well change the course of all the kids’ lives for good… if they can survive the latest nightmare realm they’ve been sent into.
This was a really nicely done speculative fiction graphic novel that successfully treads the fine line between reality and sci-fi when dealing with dream therapy and trauma. Professor Angus can be pretty sketchy but he’s believably flawed, as are most of the troubled dreamers in this book. As a pop psychologist myself, I really enjoyed the way trauma was seen and negotiated through the lens of dreams. And, readers, the way I gasped when the big secret about Esteban’s past was revealed!
Yomgui Dumont’s art and Drac’s colors are more than competent in depicting both reality and the dream sequences, tho I feel that I preferred the look of the first chapter slightly more than the second. I mean, the textured clouds in the first panel alone are a knock-out! Overall, I’m hooked and want to read more of this engrossing series. With kudos to Joe Johnson’s translations from the French, for making the proceedings read entirely naturally in English.
The Nightmare Brigade #1: The Case of The Girl from Deja Vu by Frank Thilliez, Yomgui Dumont & Drac was published today February 22 2022 by Papercutz and is available from all good booksellers, including