I really admire how well each of the books in this engrossing urban fantasy series lead in to one another. In this volume, Esteban, Tristan and Sarah, a.k.a the intrepid explorers of the Nightmare Brigade, are finally ready to plunge into the sleeping mind of Leonard, one of the Clinic’s most difficult patients. They’re going to search for Alice, the researcher who is also Tristan’s mother, and hopefully bring her home. Trouble is, Leonard has been so warped by what’s happened to him that he won’t let her go without a fight.
As the Brigade attempts to sort through his nightmares and find Alice, a greater problem hits the Clinic, with the shadowy military group that’s been on their tail finally homing in on them. The soldiers have surprisingly sophisticated tech and are completely ruthless, as they show in these pages, resorting to wanton destruction no matter the cost to either the Brigade… or themselves.
In the final chapter of this volume, the Brigade is rebuilding in a beautiful lighthouse. The structure and the land it’s on gives them new opportunities for research and discovery, especially with the hard pivot they’ve made from exploring dreams to exploring memories. But the new power structure that comes with the move sees our lead scientists arguing over the ethics and methods used. Each of their concerns are heightened by the dangers the kids of the Brigade are exposed to in the course of enacting their experimental therapy. Will the tenuous happiness and sense of purpose the Brigade has found in the aftermath of rebuilding be able to survive this schism in their leadership?
This creative team packs SO MUCH story into so few pages! Finding Alice unravels the mysteries of Leonard’s mind, following the clues left behind by Alice herself. Leonard’s plight is treated with great sensitivity, as we learn what happened to make him the cruel, twisted young man we’re so familiar with. I was also impressed with the deep dive into Ariane’s mind, touching as it did less on the individual subconscious than on generational trauma. It’s truly thought-provoking stuff.
The travels through the minds of the Brigade’s patients are all amazingly illustrated. I can’t decide whether I was more impressed with the literary themes of Leonard’s dreams or with the cavern-related depths of Ariane’s psyche. The depictions of the researchers trying to communicate with the submerged Brigade were also really well done. Some of the “real world” art suffers in comparison: I had a really hard time figuring out who was doing what sometimes in the waking world, particularly when it came to the explosion at the Center. But the craft and intelligence of the dream and memory sequences more than make up for any slight confusion in other panels.
As before, I was affected by Jim Salicrup’s goodbye editorial, with its slight modification per title. I very much wish the best for him and the rest of the editorial team in future endeavors.
The Nightmare Brigade #3: Finding Alice by Franck Thilliez, Yomgui Dumont & Drac was published June 6 2023 by Papercutz and is available from all good booksellers, including