by Eric Shanower, Gabriel Rodriguez, and Nelson Daniel
Jimmy, or Nemo, has been brought to Slumberland several times over now, and finally gave in to the idea of befriending the princess. As her acting playmate, Jimmy was expected to attend tea parties and comply with any wishes or demands of the princess, including being addressed as Nemo. In an attempt to get out of this agreement, Nemo took Flip’s advice and suddenly Slumberland melted away. Rodriguez’s breathtaking art continues in Little Nemo: Return to Slumberland #3 as the boy returns to the dream world and finds himself navigating a puzzling tunnel inspired by the works of M.C. Escher.
Upon returning to the dream world, Nemo finds that everyone is asleep except Flip. The character clearly has some history with the occupants of the kingdom, though it is only implied in this series. Even still, Eric Shanower’s voice for Flip is nearly audible in how it is scripted. Flip looks to have some hoarse or scratchy voice, and uses a delivery that allows him to be very convincing. Everything he says to Nemo, down to addressing him as Jimmy, aligns perfectly with what the boy would want to hear. Though there is no obvious deceit in what he is saying, Shanower’s dialogue and ability to capture that persona is impressive. Flip guides Nemo away from the kingdom and towards what he claims to be a more entertaining adventure. It is not long, however, before the two find themselves in a lot of trouble. All the while, the story’s visual component is breathtaking. Gabriel Rodriguez and Nelson Daniel have created a magical landscape for Slumberland in this rendition of the world created by Winsor McCay.
For fans of the M.C. Escher, most recognized for his physics-defying visuals, this issue and its adventure are a real treat. Not only is Gabriel Rodriguez an incredible and well-accomplished artist on his own, but his rendering of some famous creations of Escher as the setting for Little Nemo #3 creates a visual appeal that is unexpected. Rodriguez is able to aptly pay homage to the great artist and also elicit such enjoyment through the thrill of following Flip and Nemo as they attempt to navigate the tower. In a way, the periodic inclusion of these art pieces in the sequences act as teasers, adding a layer to the overall story. But, even without the knowledge of Escher’s works, the sequences still work incredibly well. Nemo and Flip struggle to find a logical way through the tower and even the reader gets to participate in the experience as the page continues to flip around. Up becomes down, floor becomes sky and a mark on the ground becomes a boat without paddles. It is mesmerizing and engaging to witness. Eric Shanower’s script and dialogue that carries readers through the magnificent art maintains a light, childlike wonder. The dizzying effect of the world does a good job mirroring the nonsensical world of any reader’s dreams. The events never move too far into the abstract so as to become distracting, either.
What is most surprising in Little Nemo #3 is where the adventure leads the two characters. Beyond the Tower, the story takes a turn that includes some new creatures and some interesting subtle elements that hint at the larger universe beyond the kingdom. Not only that, but the suddenness of how this trip into Slumberland concludes is surprising, especially in its implication. It does not betray the spirit of the series, and it directly aligns with how dreams can sometimes end. With the acknowledgment that the next issue is the last in this chapter, there is a bitter-sweet sensation lingering. Such a sensation only occurs with a book so clearly created with immense care and love for the material.