Alice in the Country of Joker: Nightmare Trilogy 1

September 20, 2015

QuinRose/Job – Seven Seas Entertainment – 2014 – 3 volumes

I’ve been allowing myself to read two Alice spin-off volumes at once, but it figures the two series I want to read most right now are both in the Joker setting.  I like Circus and Liar’s Game, but I think Nightmare is probably my favorite character, so this one is a winner.

I disliked Job’s art in the other book I read by them (which, weirdly, was also a Nightmare book… Job must just be the go-to Nightmare artist), and I still do.  But in a weird way, it also kind of suits Nightmare.  He’s a bad dream, after all, and the sort of weird, surreal, heavily inked art goes with that vibe, save for the fact they aren’t usually in a dream.  And Job does have panels that are wonderfully drawn.  On the other hand, the anatomy sometimes bothers me a great deal (weirdly foreshortened faces, thin and shrimpy limbs, etc).

Nightmare’s great because he’s one of the most normal characters in Wonderland.  The only other person featured in a spin-off that comes close is Julius, and sort-of Boris.  But Boris still tends to mow people down with a gun.  Julius is sort of surly (which is a normal character type).  Nightmare is sickly, defensive, and earnest.  He can read minds, but doesn’t do it for sinister purpose, and is more likely to “overhear” a really rotten opinion of himself.  Nobody thinks he can do anything or defend himself, let alone Alice.  But he’s really devoted to Alice, and is pretty low-key about stepping in and saving her when the situation demands it.  And he’s the most powerful role-holder.  The others don’t use their “powers” very frequently (Blood can change people’s clothes with a snap of his fingers, Vivaldi can disappear), but Nightmare can disappear into dreams, read minds, fly, come when called in thoughts or voice, and control the wind.  And he’s a nice, not-psychotic guy.  How about that.

There’s two story arcs in this volume.  One is about a “survival summer camp” where Alice and Nightmare are paired off together.  Alice doesn’t have high hopes, since Nightmare has trouble surviving on a regular day.  They last longer than anyone expects, but at one point while she’s off by herself, Alice suddenly gets attacked by dogs.  Nightmare tells her to call to him if she’s in trouble and he’ll come.  She does, and he does, but for some reason she doesn’t put two and two together, and holds his lack of response against him.

Later, she realizes that all the faceless are terrified of Nightmare.  It doesn’t bother him at all, but she finds out he’s quite the musician, and tries to get the faceless to show up to a concert she makes him perform. Not one person does, because he’s so reviled.  She manages to talk Nightmare into performing during a cruise (long story, lots of fun stuff happens in the Country of Joker), and gets him to disguise himself so nobody can tell who he is.  Nightmare likes this, and sees it as dressing up, but Joker accuses her of being selfish, since she’s the one that cares what people think of Nightmare.  Alice gets mad when Nightmare tries to tell her he likes it, and while they’re fighting, she falls into the ocean and Nightmare saves her, despite not knowing how to swim.

Nightmare doesn’t really hit on Alice or declare his feelings for her.  They just wind up hanging out together a lot.  Nightmare isn’t creepy, so he doesn’t chase Alice away or make her mad like the other role-holders do.  In fact, his feeble physical body makes her more likely to hang out with him, since she likes taking care of him with Grey.  He will occasionally express fondness, or relief when she’s okay.  When the situation gets a little more intimate, he seems a little embarrassed and at a loss, just like Alice.  He is pretty clear about liking her, though he doesn’t repeat himself like a broken record, throw himself at her, or make lewd innuendo.

One of the more frustrating plot points is actually more about Joker.  Alice and Nightmare fight about Alice disguising Nightmare.  He tries to tell her that it’s okay, he likes wearing a disguise, and he’s happy to make her happy.  But she gets angry at him for placating her, saying she’s just being selfish (something Joker told her).  He seems at a loss as to what to say to make her feel better here.  Alice seems to just want a pity party, and he tries really hard to make her realize he really doesn’t care, he’s willing to try things to make her happy, et cetera.  This scene keeps getting worse because he is accidentally reading her thoughts, and when two women walk up and try to hit on him, he kisses Alice to try and drive them away and get her to stop a tirade about how weak he is.  She leaves, and he regrets it immediately.  These spin-offs are fond of forced kisses, like they are the worst things in the world, so it is a little shocking that even Nightmare got one.  But his scene is a lot more intense than the usual Dee/Dum/Pierce/Boris stealing a kiss.  And a bit more meaningful than even the Blood/Peter intense stolen kisses.

So basically, I like Nightmare.  This was a couple stories, with two very short stories in the back of the volume.  One was an adorable Boris story.

In short, this was a great volume, and Nightmare was great.  He’s just a nice, normal, shy kind of guy.  Sickly, but with a lot of badass powers that wind up trumping the weapons everyone else carries around.  I would read a series about a character like Nightmare that wasn’t an Alice spinoff, and it would be great.

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