- Dream Jumper: Nightmare Escape
- written by Greg Grunberg & Lucas Turnbloom
- illustrated by Lucas Turnbloom
- colored by Guy Major
- published by Scholastic/Graphix (2016)
- Roar Score: 4/5
Scholastic’s Graphix imprint has long been home to some of the best “all-ages” graphic novels put out by a traditional book publisher. Graphix actually hit the ground running and got its start with the color editions of Jeff Smith’s groundbreaking Bone series, and they haven’t looked back.
They’ve since become a wellspring of fantastic, kid-friendly graphic novels, publishing books such as Kazu Kibuishi’s Amulet series, Mike Maihack’s Cleopatra in Space series, all of Raina Telgemeier’s books, and so many more. Seriously, I challenge you to find a Graphix book that isn’t stunning.
Dream Jumper is one of their newest titles, and it’s definitely off to a promising start with the first book in the planned series, Nightmare Escape.
The story centers on Ben, a young boy who discovers he has the ability to jump into other people’s dreams. But these aren’t normal dreams; they’re incredibly lucid and both Ben and the dreamer remember it the next day. In a sense, the dreams are real.
Around the same time as Ben discovers this power, a dark, malevolent dream monster (The Nightmare Lord) begins stalking people’s dreams. When they fall prey, they enter a permanent dream state. In short, people all over town are falling into comas, and no one knows why.
When one of his classmates is “captured” by the dream monster, Ben – at the urging of his best friend and a “spirit animal” in the dream world – decides to use his powers for good. He goes on a rescue mission. But he soon gets in way over his head and discovers that there are lots of people trapped in the dream world who need his help…and that he’s part of a larger community of dream jumpers.
Dream Jumper is the brainchild of Lucas Turnbloom (who also created the Imagine This comic strip) and Greg Grunberg (whose face you probably recognize from Felicity, Alias, Heroes, and Star Wars: The Force Awakens). This is their first graphic novel, and – as with any first book – there are a few spots where it shows.
The book takes some obvious cues from Bone (The Nightmare Lord and some of his monster henchmen are very similar to The Hooded One and the Rat Creatures), and the story treads familiar ground as our young hero discovers and practices using his power. There’s also a lot of exposition in the book as Grunberg and Turnbloom establish the world, Ben’s power, the society of dream jumpers, and the motivations of each major character (especially The Nightmare Lord).
Nevertheless, none of that detracts from the story or the art – both of which are incredibly compelling and engaging. Turnbloom’s art toes the line of being “cartoony,” but I certainly don’t classify that as a fault. The art is gorgeous and fits the story perfectly. His character designs, especially for the creatures and monsters in the dream world, are amazing.
The book is appropriate for almost all readers, but some of the creatures in the dream world (especially those that appear early on in the book) are potentially scary. Still, we’re very much looking forward to the next installment of Ben’s story!
Bring it on!