Writer: Danny Lore Art: Jordi Pérez Publisher: Vault Comics
WHAT IS IT?
A futuristic crime story where dreams can become sentient beings.
Vault's elevator pitch said it'd be like The Sandman meets Blade Runner, and that's absolutely right on the money.
There's also a bit of social commentary baked into it, grounding all that sci-fi/fantasy in real world issues.
WHAT'S IT ABOUT?
Daher Wei is an Inspector Judge – a sort of police detective for dreams that walk among us.
When Wei had to investigate a figment that was a part of a privileged member of society's dream, there seems to be an unspoken expectation that she'd make the problem go away.
Instead, Daher has suspicious eyes cast on her for her decision in the field to let the figment, Ava, run, rather than to bring her in. But Wei sticks to her guns: it’s her prerogative to make that decision, and people are only questioning her because of whose figment it is. But listening to Ava's version of events might put the both of them into some serious and unexpected danger. Chances are, if Queen of Bad Dreams follows the hallmarks of the genre, things will get worse before they get better.
I can't stress enough how big of a fan I am of Danny Lore's narration style in Queen of Bad Dreams. Most comics use a first-person narrator, usually through the eyes of the protagonist. Some comics, especially older ones, opt for third-person. This story is told through the eyes of the protagonist's ex to their daughter. It's an innovative, new approach to storytelling that brings in personal elements while also having an almost storybook quality to it.
The color and design for the cover and credits page are fairly different from issue to issue, making each feel unique. The thorn design and bright shock of color make it feel exotic and alien.
Ava setting up her story with, "All I've ever done is protect Emerson Chase" hits like a brick to the back of the head. You don't expect it, and it stops you in your tracks. I don't know if it's the implication of a life lived entirely for another, or a woman of color protecting a privileged white man who could care less about her, or the subtlety and discomfort of the scene, Ava and Emerson separated from an eerily green EXIT sign by looming high school monsters.
It's fantastic seeing representation of minority people. Most of the book's characters aren't white (though the probable villain is), and figments represent marginalized voices more than people of color, adding another layer. The character, West, seems to be non-binary (they use "they" pronouns, if I understood the dialogue correctly), but it's integrated into the story simply as one of many facets – talked about not in hushed tones or smirks but casually, the way it should be. (Apologies if I've absolutely bungled talking about representation – I grew up with the understanding anything about minorities shouldn't be discussed at all.)
Jordi Pérez continues to deliver a surreal element to what would otherwise be a mostly science fiction comic. The "shots" and angles feel like something you'd see in a Stanley Kubrick film, almost vertigo-inspiring. See below for an example.
Dearbhla Kelly's color work in fascinating as ever. You can obviously see an example below, but it almost looks like it's done in marker, with the bold color palette and the line work given to depth and lighting and shading. IJ Daher Wei’s Orange sticks out in the sterile, white environments and as an opposing color against the heavy purples and teals of other venues. No matter where she is, the eye is always drawn to her.
Kim McLean's sound effect work is punchy and conveys the action well. It leaves me wanting even more, but too much might upset the tone or further muddle scenes that already have a decent amount of dialogue or captions in them. I also liked the subtle flourishes, like the red stroke around the word balloon when shouting in the dream.
Speaking of the captions, their previously mentioned positioning seems to be fixed this issue. (I may have just been reviewing a digital copy that hadn't gone through production yet – would need to check my hardcopy!)
The action sequence toward the end of the issue was nicely balanced, and Dearbhla Kelly's vivid colors brought a wild energy to the scene. With the characters' individual colors blending together in the bottom panels, it's almost like we saw the fight bring them together as allies rather than two separate entities. Maybe I'm reading too far into it, but that's what I got from it.
The scene below also sets off my "Chekhov's Gun" alarm, making me wonder if Daher will need this "obsolete" equipment later on in the story.
WHAT DOESN'T WORK?
Cursing may make it not the best comic for kids, but you don't really have a lot of it or anything else that may set off parental alarms.
I'm not sure if I understand the significance of the beat at the end of the issue, yet, though I figure we'll get more clarity next issue.
WHY SHOULD I READ IT?
Queen of Bad Dreams is an absolutely captivating crime mystery that bridges the cold, hard reality of cyberpunk science fiction with the messy world of the conceptual.
It folds in complicated interpersonal relationships and sociopolitical commentary for a story that feels at once both novel and grounded in our modern times.
If you like your neo-noir mysteries with a surreal element and strong minority representation, you're going to love Queen of Bad Dreams.
WHAT DO I READ NEXT?
If you like the writing:
We Have To Go Back by Jordan Alsaqa & Sally Cantirino
The Sandman, Vol. 1 by Neil Gaiman, Sam Kieth & Mike Dringenberg
Copperhead, Vol. 1 by Jay Faerber, Scott Godlewski and Drew Moss
If you like the art:
Xena: Warrior Princess #3 by Vita Ayala & Jordi Pérez
Paradiso, Vol. 1 by Ram V & Devmalya Pramanik
Conceptual Heist, Vol. 1 by Jay D'Ici & Matt G. Gagnon
ABOUT THE CREATORS
Danny Lore – Writer
Danny Lore is a queer editor & writer from Harlem & the Bronx
Multitalented: While much of their experience is in editing comics and writing prose, this is the first comic they've written!
I actually ran into them out of sheer luck or chance in New York City when I was there for a work meeting
Jordi Pérez – Artist
Outlander: Hails from Spain
Moniker: Also goes by "Jorge Perez"
Dearbhla Kelly – Colorist
Multitalented: Also does graphic design, illustration, motion graphics, branding, editorial & commercial work
Would love to color a New Mutants comic
Kim McLean – Letterer
Multitalented: Is also Vault Comics's VP of Marketing/Sales, created cover art for the comic, Friendo, and is a UX strategist
Enjoys home brewing beer
Adrian F. Wassel – Editor
Name Recognition: Is the CCO & Editor In Chief of Vault Comics, and plays the role of editor on most, if not all, of Vault's titles
Also helps run Vault with his brother and father
Has personally helped other comics creators in their endeavors
Tim Daniel – Designer
Multitalented: Also was the writer on Fissure
Inspired by others in the business: Sonia Harris, Sean Phillips, and Fonographics
Dream Team: Co-wrote Curse and Burning Fields with Michael Moreci
HOW DO I BUY IT?
Click one of these:
The image(s) used in this article are from a comic strip, webcomic or the cover or interior of a comic book. The copyright for this image(s) is likely owned by either the publisher of the comic, the writer(s) and/or artist(s) who produced the comic. It is believed that the use of this image(s) qualifies as fair use under the United States copyright law. The image is used in a limited fashion in an educational manner in order to illustrate the points of the author and not for the purpose of entertainment or substituting the original work. It is believed the use of this image has had no impact on the market value of the original work.
All Vault Comics characters and the distinctive likeness(es) thereof are trademarks of and copyright Vault Comics or their respective owners. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED