By Zack Quaintance — The concept behind Vault Comics’ newest book, Queen of Bad Dreams, grabbed me right away. In the world of this story, dream entities known as figments can emerge from dreamer’s minds, and, when they do, there are inspector judges tasked with catching them and deciding to put them back or let them remain in our world. It’s an interesting concept, obviously. What really appealed to me though was how singular it sounded, an especially impressive thing given that artists for centuries have drawn inspiration from dreams and dreaming.
Hell, one of the most famous works to ever emerge from the graphic sequential medium, Neil Gaiman’s Sandman, is rooted in dreams and dreaming and the mythical lord who controls them. This comic, it seemed to me, had worked hard from conception to boldly move through the dream space. It must, to my mind, have a powerful and interesting story to tell. After reading Queen of Bad Dreams #1, I’m happy to report this is most definitely the case. This is one stellar comic, alive in a way and a world all its own.
One of the chief reasons for this is the stunning and kinetic art created boy Jordi Pérez and colorist Dearbhla Kelly. Perez’s designs are amazing, and they do a lot of work in the plot too. The designs for the figments from the start are somehow immediately recognizable as dream creatures, yet unique, unlike any rendering of nightmares or dreams I’ve seen before. Kelly’s bold coloring pushes this quality within them even further, deploying a mixture of bright shades as well as some techniques that almost seem intended to mirror recognizable childish aesthetics like crayon scribbling and fill-ins of black magic marker. This works as a visual, and is even more interesting when the script notes that dream came from the mind of a six-year-old.
What makes it all really work, though, is the sharp and clean, futuristic clothing and backgrounds inherent to the landscapes and characters in the real world. Together, Pérez and Kelly nail this contrast, making it clear to readers what is and isn’t a figment of dreams, at least one that knowledge is necessary. I look forward to seeing the lines continue to blur as this story progresses.
Equally as interesting is writer Danny Lore’s narration, which grabs readers from the jump with powerful use of second person. Like the visuals, this to me is a bold move, and one that pays off massively. Second person narration to me is one of those techniques that can go wrong, but in the hands of a confident writer like Lore, it’s a mightily effective way to orient the reader, to let them know they’re in good hands as we travel through the abstractions of something like a futuristic dream sphere.
The most important facet of Lore’s story, however, part of the foundational concept. It’s that once dream creatures have been encountered and subdued, there are people in the world task with evaluating whether they need to be put back. This adds a powerful layer of meaning, going past the surface thought of what if figments could escape from dreams to make this book deeper and all the more enthralling. This idea is extrapolated into a usual sort of law enforcement bureaucracy, complete with a chief, the spoiled son of a council member causing problems, and a partner on the absolute edge of retirement. There are tropes here, and welcomed ones at that, ones that do a great job grounding the new ideas within the familiar. It all adds up to a really interesting story, and a comic that gives us brief glimpses of sub cultures and challenges and changed status quos that all spring organically from its central conceit. Go forth, and read this book.
Overall: A rich and imaginative read, Queen of Bad Dreams is another Vault comic that layers ideas, ultimately building something wonderful and new. The Pérez-Kelly artist-colorist team is ultra talented, and Danny Lore’s script gets phenomenal work from them. A great book. 9.0/10
Queen of Bad Dreams #1
Writer: Danny Lore
Artist: Jordi Pérez
Colorist: Dearbhla Kelly
Letterer: Kim McLean
Publisher: Vault Comics
Read our interview with writer Danny Lore!
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Zack Quaintance is a tech reporter by day and freelance writer by night/weekend. He Tweets compulsively about storytelling and comics as BatmansBookcase.