Writer: Danny Lore Art: Jordi Pérez Publisher: Vault Comics
WHAT IS IT?
A futuristic crime story where dreams can become sentient beings.
Blade Runner, but with anthropomorphized dreams instead of replicants.
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?
A slower issue takes the time to develop our characters, their relationships to each other, and the beliefs they hold dear.
But just because it's slow doesn't mean nothing happens – Daher has a frank discussion with Emerson Chase, some unexpected development for Daher's daughter, Selene, and some at-first-uncomfortable-then-kind-of-heartwarming dialogue between Ava, the figment, and Viv, Daher's ex.
The way Danny Lore writes Daher’s relationship with her teenage daughter feels genuine and universal to many parent-child relationships. The concession when her daughter leans in for Daher to kiss her, though she’s still grumpy, feels so real and natural. I've added in the page below to show you what I'm talking about.
Also, what Lore and the team do with Selene's character is well executed, and gives a lot of depth to Daher and Viv, helping you to understand so much about their characters and their motivations in the comic.
While Queen of Bad Dreams is its own unique story, it is also a mystery with a detective-like character as the protagonist. Because of that, we almost have to follow the trappings set forth for the genre. And, without spoiling anything, we definitely hit a couple of those milestones this issue.
With just a few lines from Jordi Pérez, we can see the smugness on Emerson Chase’s face. This is hammered home in the way he talks about himself, showing how conceited and unaware of his privilege he is. And oooooh man, the verbal barbs they trade are glorious, especially the ones coming from Daher.
We also get more of the fish eye lens effect, used to spotlight a character and push everything around them into a weird focus. It's an effect that, by issue 3, feels like a key part of Queen of Bad Dreams's personality.
Personally, I love good transitions between scenes, and the athletic conversation carried over from one set of characters to another was very smooth and well done.
Since so much of the story this issue sticks with the mundanity of the real world, Dearbhla Kelly's palette is more grounded in that same reality. The one exception is a particular splash page. Daher seems to be a logical character with a good head on her shoulders, but her action on this page feels like it originates from more of an emotional place – Kelly's use of red drives that point home for us.
In comics, as you probably already know, the stroke around word balloons often strives to match the stroke around the panels or an average inked line on the page. Or, if not match, maintain a sort of ratio between the two. Balloons in Queen of Bad Dreams do the latter, and are very cleanly executed. But the stroke around the captions, if you look closely, is hand-drawn (or, at least appears to be). This makes sense — the narration comes from our protagonist’s ex, and those feelings still seem raw, so a coarser outline matches the tone well. But it’s so interesting that the strokes are different for balloons and captions, mirroring Daher and her ex’s very different personalities.
It feels like the next couple issues are going to be a roller coaster ride, so strap in!
WHAT DOESN'T WORK?
Strokes around captions can sometimes be gossamer thin, to the point where it shows the color box meeting the art beneath it. This might've been updated between the review copy and the final published version.
The special glove that's the main tool to Daher's trade...hasn’t really done anything. I admit, I haven't gone through to read the previous issues before writing this review, so I could be forgetting something from the first issue, but reading month to month, I can't recall exactly what it does. But it has some significance here, like a badge or a gun.
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: Was one time Vault Comics's VP of Marketing/Sales, created cover art for the comic, Friendo, and is currently 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?
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