by Eric Shanower, Gabriel Rodriguez and Nelson Daniel
Oh my word, this book is stunning. Little Nemo has been seeing a reemergence this past year and the increased attention and republications have been great for fans. But here, readers are getting the treat of seeing an all new adventure in the classic world created by Winsor McCay. Little Nemo: Return to Slumberland has the challenge of maintaining the spirit and charm of the original strip comic while fitting into the current landscape and aesthetics of the medium. After a fabulous introductory issue, Shanower, Rodriguez and Daniel bring readers back to Slumberland for a much longer stay and it is a real delight.
While the first issue had nods to the strip comic in the number of shorts it included, featuring a series of attempts to bring Nemo into Slumberland all ending with the boy waking up early, this second issue finally steps inside the gates. Very little time is spent in his bedroom before he is ushered off into Slumberland and Gabriel Rodriguez gets to flaunt his talents in panel after panel of absolutely breathtaking design. The painstaking care of each image is unquestionable and the charm of the images is as impressive as the variety in setting and creatures that populate Slumberland. As the boy is brought to the King and his daughter, readers will have so much to pour over. Rodriguez, known for his work on Locke & Key, presents a style that feels rather heavily influenced by architectural techniques. The lines and scale are all consistent, smooth and near perfect. No matter how much is included in the scene, the characters and surroundings are never merely forms, without faces. Instead, Rodriguez characterizes every aspect of the panel.
Shanower presents the second chapter in a way that caters to the artists he has entailed, allowing the trip to meet the princess to be a panel by panel exploration and discovery of this new world. Readers follow Nemo as he reluctantly makes his way through the town, a bizarre cast of creatures and a number of mandatory procedures in order to be sure that the boy is ready for his duty. Knowing anything about children, the process and eventual garb make for great comedy. The number of complicated steps required would be painful for any kid, but this one does not even know if he wants to stay. Shanower’s writing of the entire sequence as well as his voice for Nemo is spot on. Every time the boy complains of being unsure of staying or airing frustrations with his name, Shanower has the surrounding characters continue on as if nothing was even said. The simplicity of the story telling, the depiction of the different characters, and the wondrous sense of adventure make Little Nemo an engaging book for any reader.
Not only is Shanower’s writing a great fit for this world, and Rodriguez’s pencils and inks detail a Slumberland like never before, but the colors by Nelson Daniel find a way to perfectly capture a sense of a previous era in the medium while still feeling connected to the comics of today. The color palette on display in Little Nemo is breathtaking. Each blue, green and red pops off the page. In a way, the colors are so vibrant that they feel almost surreal. While Rodriguez’s calculated and carefully constructed designs hold Slumberland together in a way that feels real and tangible, Daniel’s colors carry that real wonder of a child’s dreams. That fusion creates a place that is the perfect idealized middle ground, an imagined land that is so fantastical, and still so capable of being real.
There is so much to enjoy in Little Nemo: Return to Slumberland. Shanower’s adventure is pure and entertaining and written for all readers. While being so all-encompassing, he also provides enough space for the artists to bring every detail to life. The issues warrant countless rereads, and no doubt those who do pick up the book will have an endless amount to discover in each and every page. It is fantastic to see the attention that has been given to such a wonderful property recently. Even more so, the attention and care that these creators have given to their story goes beyond what fans and new readers could have expected.