Alice has been going through a tough time. When we meet her at the start of Alice: From Dream to Dream, her dad is looking for a job and they’ve moved back to Cincinnati. There’s a bully at school, Taisha, who keeps targeting her without provocation and, worst of all, she’s been forced to share a room with her brother, Louis.
The latter problem, when you see the effort they’ve made to split the space (their shelving system a fancier version of the tape you see applied in sitcoms), could sound excessive, and that’s where Alice’s parents are coming from, but that’s why Alice’s struggles are so sympathetic. Her concerns aren’t fueled by personal preference alone. She’s not being uncooperative, but if she tried to explain to her parents why it’s so important that she have her own room (and, interestingly, Alice says she tried once, so her concerns aren’t made-up) they wouldn’t believe her.
Alice can enter other people’s dreams. Nix the “can.” This isn’t something she chooses to do, but if you can imagine what teenage boys dream about (on a good day Alice finds herself sharing a nightmare where she’s stuck inside a coffin), Alice can’t sleep. Things are bad enough, with everything else going on, but lack of sleep means Alice’s stress is amplified, too.
There’s one person who makes Alice’s return to Cincinnati better and that’s her best friend, Jamie. Never have two people been better matched. Letterer, Jim Campbell, shows how in sync they are with his speech bubbles, as they maneuver and weave around each other. Both characters are written beautifully by Giulio Macaione, but their relationship isn’t romantic. Macaione cuts the air out of that right away, by having them address the possibility early, but that’s great, because then the ending’s no longer reliant on their eventual union. That’s not to say you aren’t rooting for them, but whether they’re boyfriend or girlfriend won’t change how much they mean to each other, and it’s truly not on either one of their minds, but on readers, recognizing the chemistry they have and how rare it is to see two people of the opposite sex interact without awkwardness or angst, but genuine affection.
Taisha is another character who’s written well, even if she’s not exactly likable. She has a crush on Jamie and doesn’t like Alice hanging around him, but she never alters her behavior to gain his favor, and at least that doesn’t make her a liar.
None of the characters are. At one point Jaime blows Alice off to go to the library. But he does go to the library. That’s not a line. Dr. Snow, the school counselor, tells Alice he believes in aliens. Where you might not have believed him, the flying saucer at the end of his pencil gives his claim credibility as more than a tactic to gain Alice’s trust.
Macaione pulls double duty as artist and I love the different hairstyles, especially Alice’s and her brother’s, and how Alice and Jaime are standing side by side, but Macaione uses profile shots, so they’re not in the same panel but their speech bubbles cross the divide. The use of specific titles adds to the realism, like when Jaime pulls out a vinyl record and it’s David Bowie’s Low or Alice reads Lumberjanes, and real life looks like a dream when Giulia Adragna‘s coloring it. Jaime takes Alice to a cemetery and you’ve never seen more vibrant greens and blues.
Every emotional beat feels true and earned in Alice: From Dream to Dream. Alice has the qualities of Alice in Wonderland but deals with the real world, too. This isn’t Macaione’s first graphic novel, but it is his first for the US. Jackie Bell does the translation and were Boom to translate his other works, I would seek them out on the double.
Alice: From Dream to Dream goes on sale September 26th from Boom! Studios.