In 1905 American cartoonist Winsor McCay began his groundbreaking comic strip Little Nemo in Slumberland, a little more than 100 years later modern creators Eric Shanower and Gabriel Rodriguez look to recapture that magic. Published by IDW, Little Nemo - Return to Slumberland # 1 is the start of an ambitious sequel/reboot of a classic all ages story.
The Princess of Slumberland wants a new playmate, but only her beloved Nemo will do. Of course it’s been 100 years and little Nemo from the original series is… ahem… unavailable. So the advisors to King Morpheus the Lord of Sleep (I’m looking at you Neil Gaiman) find a new child for the princess to play with, James NEMO Summerton. Taking a cue from Winsor McCay’s original comic, the remainder of the issue follows a series of attempts to bring the new Nemo to Slumberland.
Eric Shanower has made a name for himself in the comic industry for adapting beloved children's stories. His adaptations of L. Frank Baum's Oz series with Skottie Young won multiple Eisner awards and are joys to read. Where Return to Slumberland differs from Shanower’s Oz adaptations which were fairly faithful retellings, Slumberland is an original story and continuation of McCay’s work. This works against the issue as what could be a great all ages story requires some prior research. Something an 8 year old probably wouldn't do. It doesn't help that the Little Nemo comic strips are currently out of print. You can read them online at the Comic Strip Library but the gorgeous art needs to be seen on paper to be truly appreciated. All that being said Shanower gives the issue a light hearted feel, reminiscent of the 1905 story. It is definitely an all ages story with a little wink to another Nemo that is a part of the pop culture zeitgeist that kids will be more familiar with. With books geared to kids and adults it’s generally hard to create characters with a lot of depth as the issues they have to face 1) has to be accesible to everyone 2) and appropriate to everyone who reads it. This is somewhat the case with Return to Slumberland. Shanower’s characters are somewhat one dimensional at the start, but with this being the first issue there is time to build them into something more. Never does this book feel like it’s dumbing itself down for the reader, and relies on the young and old reader to have a sense of what they are getting themselves into.
Taken from Ring of Nibelung by P. Craig Russell. If you haven’t read this go read it. NOW!
A heads up to Locke & Key fans, this is a very different Gabriel Rodriguez. While the skill and solid visuals that made Locke & Key so great still remain, they are worlds apart from what you see in Little Nemo. Teaming with colourist Nelson Daniel, Rodriguez has shifted his artistic approach to be evocative of McCay’s. Panel layouts are wild and imaginative, constantly breaking panel walls, shifting angles, and experimenting with the form in a similar way that McKay once did. One thing that works against Gabriel Rodriguez though is the size of the page. The original Little Nemo had the freedom of a whole newspaper page to work with while Rodriguez has to work on a page nearly a third of the size. I think those who read this on a tablet will be cheated even more as this series really lends itself to print. IDW is known for releasing amazing artist editions and oversized books and would be remiss if they didn’t at some point release this new Little Nemo series in classic newspaper size. A real treat for readers is the back matter which showcases some of Rodriguez’s pages before being inked and coloured. Rodriguez is able to capture the Art Nouveau spirit that defined McCay’s works, but Gabriel never feels like he’s aping the originator’s work.
- Stunning art
- A fun all ages story
- Great backmatter that gives real insight to how this book was made
- Art loses some of it’s punch by being on a typical comic page
- While not entirely necessary, it does help to read the original Little Nemo