Many people are said to live in a dream world. For teenager Robbie Boone, this is a literal truth!
As a boy, Robbie was chosen to become a companion to the Princess of the Dream Realm. By day, he was an ordinary student. By night, he joined the Princess in defending her father’s kingdom from nightmares and monsters.
Unfortunately, Robbie’s dreams are different now that he’s started high school. He dreams of becoming an animator and making comics. But those dreams are distracting him from his schoolwork and worrying his mother. Not only because his grades are slipping, but because he spends so much time alone working at his art instead of socializing.
The Princess of the Dream Realm is worried too. She misses her friend and wonders what can be so exciting about high school and the Waking World that it is keeping Robbie from wanting to spend time together like before. This leads her to follow Robbie to school and opens the door to trouble for her father, the King of Dreams!
Waking Life was reportedly inspired by the work of Winsor McCay, who created the classic comic Little Nemo in Slumberland. Artist Ben Humeniuk has updated the concept for the 21st century, while delving into the question of what happens when a boy-hero starts growing up. The resulting comic is an eclectic mix of fantasy and slice-of-life, which drama born of Robbie’s struggles at his new school and the hint of a rising darkness in his dream world.
Humeniuk’s characters are the strongest aspect of the series. The supporting cast is unique and memorable, with more nuance than is usually seen in a comic aimed at teenagers. While Robbie’s mother is presented as a stern authority figure, there is no doubt that she loves her son and that her condemning his art is born of a fear that he is missing out on life by living in a dream world. The irony is this is literally true, and that Robbie is trying to free himself from the fantasy that keeps calling him back. There are also hints of there being more to the bully that menaces Robbie than meets the eye.
Humeniuk’s artwork is not as detailed as Winsor McCay’s, but it is perfectly suited to the story at hand. There is a subtle shifting towards exaggeration in the Dream Realm, with things slightly indistinct. Most of the time, however, the comic looks like any other teen drama… right up until Max the Clown or some other dream world denizen shows up to crack the façade.
Comicker Press has not given the first volume of Waking Life an official rating. However, there is nothing in it that would be inappropriate for its target teen audience. There is no sex or nudity, nor even a joke about what a teenage boy’s dreams might involve or what he might be doing in his room alone apart from making art. The violence is largely cartoonish, with no bloodshed and nothing scarier than a few cartoon nightmares.
Waking Life Book One: Pleasant Places
By Ben Humeniuk
Comicker Press, 2018
Publisher Age Rating:
Series ISBNs and Order
NFNT Age Recommendation: Older Teen (16-18), Teen (13-16)
Character Representation: African-American,