Since we last left Ben, he and friend Jake have started a business based on Ben’s mastery of his power to “jump” into others’ dreams. Ben is the talent and Jake is the agent. While Ben rescues friends and classmates from the monsters of their recurring dreams, Jake is busy lining up future clients and stays in constant communication with Ben via a wireless headset of sorts that serves as a bridge between the dream world and the awake world that the rest of us mere mortals know.
Unfortunately, Jake has a habit of falling asleep on Ben, which has put Ben at risk in the dream world more than once. Ben learns, through the help of his mentor, that Jake has likely fallen victim to the dream harvester, who is responsible for taking human bodies to his master. By the end of the volume, the villain is vanquished, some unexpected twists around a mysterious figure in the dream world lead to a pleasant surprise, and the door is left wide open for a darker book 3.
While this book can stand on its own, readers who already know Ben’s call to be a dream jumper and the value of the somni stone he wears around his neck will find this book more satisfying. Elementary and middle school readers will continue to enjoy the brisk movement of the story, the minimal text on each page, and a purposefully expressive range of blues, reds, and purples that avoids being too noisy.
However, this art felt like it had some missed opportunities. A story set in a dream world invites experimentation and innovation in graphic novels. Sandman wouldn’t be Sandman if the Sandman spoke in black on white speech bubbles. Why rely on ordinary demons like skeletons and spiders when a dream world invites creatures far more uncanny and uncomfortable? These overlooked details prevented this piece from being the truly immersive adventure it aimed to be. There are some elegantly creepy panels within this volume, like a panel from Ben’s point of view as he looks down into an abyss and sees the glowing, skeletal dream harvester fighting with all his might to keep himself from getting sucked in. These moments could have been more affecting expanded into full-page spreads.
The characters also appear flat, and the dialogue doesn’t help to lift them up. Jake has a perpetual gape whether he’s in mortal peril or commenting on Ben’s crush. At some point Ben tells Jake, “Something bad’s going to happen. I know it.” This line came across as an insult to Jake’s intelligence, and, frankly, an insult to the reader, too.
The big question here is: will readers care that these stories aren’t perfect? Dream Jumper already has a fan base and No Flying No Tights has recommended the first book in the series as a readalike to Amulet. I believe that if you have the audience that’s craving these sorts of stories, Dream Jumper will leave them feeling like they got what they came for.
I will be more delighted with this series if some of the plot points that emerged in this volume are addressed in future volumes. Then readers could move through this series with a sense of satisfaction as they watch short story arcs resolve and longer story arcs persist. Whether that will actually happen—we have yet to see.
Dream Jumper, vol. 2: Curse of the Harvester
by Greg Grunberg
Art by Lucas Turnbloom
Scholastic, GRAPHIX, 2017
Publisher Age Rating: 10-14