ably translated from the original French by Joe Johnson.
Now that the clunky but necessary exposition has been established in Volume 1, the creative team behind this series can more fully and poignantly explore the world they’ve built here in the follow-up volume. Esteban has discovered that he’s more than just an orphan discovered wandering in the nearby woods by Dr Albert Angus, renowned dream psychologist and therapist. He suspects that he’s actually a creature pulled out of a real person’s nightmares, and that the same can be said of Sarah, another orphaned teenager who’s come to live at Dr Angus’ sprawling clinic/estate.
But before he can investigate their origins, he has to figure out a way to escape this strange new dream in which he finds himself. His “parents” tell him the clinic was all a hallucination, while a sinister circus takes advantage of the dream therapy machines and Dr Angus himself. Esteban will have to not only fight his way into the estate but also figure out how to survive Dr Angus’ nightmare in order to get to the truth of what’s happening to everyone he holds dear.
The second issue in the volume has Esteban trying to persuade Sarah of their shared past, and taking her with him to investigate further. Meanwhile, local bully Alex draws the attention of a monster while trying to find proof that Tristan can actually walk. The way these two plotlines intersect was tremendously satisfying, as was Tristan’s confession to the two people he regards as siblings. I loved so much how the kids band together, and how even when they fight, they realize that love connects them. It’s refreshing to see angst and trauma dealt with healthily, with minimal wallowing.
That’s one of the greatest strengths of this series, that it takes dream therapy seriously despite the fantastical nature of its mechanisms. It never discounts the characters’ fears or insecurities, but looks for healthy resolutions. Even when a character does something misguided, as Dr Angus does when he tries to obscure the kids’ origins, it comes from a place of caring and consideration.
And, overall, it’s just such kickass fun! The video game dream sequence was a hoot, both in plot and in art, and I totally felt for Esteban as he worried that maybe the dreamer whose mindscape he was traversing played too many video games. I certainly know I’ve probably invested a little too much time in a game when I start dreaming about it! But most of all, this volume successfully evades any sophomore slump, building strongly from the foundation of the first in the series to not only reveal the truth about many of our main characters, but also to lead in to the search for Tristan’s mom. I love when series go from strength to strength, and am eagerly looking forward to the next book in the series.
The Nightmare Brigade #2: Into the Woods by Franck Thilliez, Yomgui Dumont & Drac was published today July 5 2022 by Papercutz and is available from all good booksellers, including