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Review: ‘Disney Manga: Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas: Zero’s Journey,’ Book One

Zero's JourneyDisney Manga Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas Zero’s Journey Book One
Written by D.J. Milky; Art by Kei Ishiyama, David Hutchison & Dan Conner
All Ages
Tokyopop, October 2018, ISBN: 978-1-4278-5897-9
112 pgs; $10.99USD

Unlike a lot of Disney’s other property, The Nightmare Before Christmas hasn’t had any new stories set in its worlds beyond being in the Kingdom Hearts series. So hearing that not only was there going to be a new story set in the world, but that it would also feature Jack’s faithful ghost dog Zero was like music to my ears. However, this first book felt more like treading over old ground rather than giving us something new and fresh.

Zero’s Journey takes place after the original movie. Jack is working on a new project for Halloween, but it isn’t going well. Despite his frustration, he takes some time to play with Zero. An accident sends the ghost dog out past Halloween Town to the Holiday Doors, where he is sucked into the door to Christmas Town. He finds help from a kindly elf and her owl friend, but not everyone in Christmas Town is as obliging to the ghost dog. Back in Halloween Town, Jack is desperate to find Zero, but his responsibilities keep him from searching. Tricksters Lock, Shock, and Barrel agree to help, but they may have more mischief than assistance in mind.

The title calls this Zero’s Journey, and to its credit it lives up to this. Most of the story is told from Zero’s perspective from the moment he goes through the Christmas door. He does all the things you would expect a dog on his own adventure would do: He befriends the owl Howly and some flying reindeer, indulges in some of the sweets from the many bakeries in Christmas Town, and runs into some elf children who play too rough with him. He ends up biting off more than he can chew when he runs afoul of a gingerbread man who comes to life after Zero eats his leg and traps him in a pot.

The art faithfully captures the look and feel of the world. Jouelle has that creepy-yet-kind look that you expect from this spooky but sweet world. Ishiyama’s portrayal of Zero is perfect. He moves with the fluidity of a ghost while still retaining all of the energetic motion of a floppy-eared dog. It was really a joy to see.

While I did enjoy this first volume overall, it still felt like a bit of a retread of the movie. We’ve already seen Christmas Town. This first volume did try to expand on it, with Joulle showing Zero the History of Christmas Town in what would have been a musical number if it had been a movie, but it’s still more of the same. I would have liked it if Zero had gone through another door, like Thanksgiving or Easter or Valentine’s Day. A romp through the other worlds would have been much more interesting. This is just book one of four, though, so it is possible that could still happen. I would still recommend picking this volume just for all the scenes with Zero, who is truly a delight.

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Lori Henderson About Lori Henderson

Lori Henderson is a mother of two teenage daughters and an avid reader. She blogs about manga at her personal blog Manga Xanadu as well as contributing and editing for Manga Village. She blogs about all things fandom (mainly Doctor Who) at her other personal blog Fangirl Xanadu. She's been at it so for over 5 years now and counting!

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