Queen of Bad Dreams #1 Review
Inspector Judge Daher’s about to get to the root of all dreams – and nightmares – and it could get ugly. Real ugly.
“Queen of Bad Dreams” #1
Story: Danny Lore
Art: Jordi Pérez
Colors: Dearbhla Kelly
Letters: Kim McLean
Publisher: Vault Comics
What Lore’s doing with a day-lit sci-fi noir comic definitely works, and there’s no shortage of imagination here or character-building to keep us entertained. Ava is an interesting character, and the whole concept of dream figments having a chance to live in the real world if they’re deemed non-threatening is unique, and an interesting commentary on our current culture. Daher is compelling from the beginning, idealized as she is through the narration of her ex-wife, and carries a lot of quiet compassion through this issue that doesn’t stereotype her as either the super butch lady cop or the law enforcement officer with a heart of gold. Daher feels distant and professional in an intentional way, and that distance will no doubt be tested as we continue through the story. However, even as narration as a device is common in noir and crime comics, the choice to use a different character – one that we don’t meet until halfway through the issue – can grind a bit, and siting the story as a tale told to Daher’s daughter can increase that meaningful distance in a not-so-intentional way.
Pérez’s art is interesting and the character and world design are slick in a good way, but there are some perspective issues in a few places that mean faces and bodies are too narrow or squashed. Pérez’s style is angular and slender in this book, but some of these moments don’t feel intentional. There’s one page in particular where Daher goes to see her boss that has multiple moments of disorientation. The page begins with an establishing panel of Daher outside of Chief Quinn’s glassed-in office, and in the second panel switches POV to over Quinn’s shoulder as she walks in. The series of three panels that follow feature an extreme and awkward upward angle, no doubt designed to fit both Daher as she sits and Quinn as he stands, followed by an eyeline issue as Daher looks up at him and he appears to be looking out at the wall. Turn the page, however, and there’s a gorgeous layout that features some of Kelly’s bright color pops and some excellent facial detail. And, there are some times when the forced perspective works really well, like in the establishing shot of the karaoke bar. Overall, Pérez’s style suits the book, and it’ll be interesting to see if the off-kilter angles are a portent of weirdness to come.
Kelly’s work does a lot to elevate the world, and she employs a fresh and bright palette that will no doubt suit the increasingly strange world of dreams and nightmares. For now, the palette establishes a bright and somewhat sanitized world, and there’s a sense of normalcy in this first issue that will, no doubt, change. Fast. Kelly goes with subtle watercolor effects here and there that soften the book’s clean vibe somewhat and lend texture to what would otherwise be far too clean of a read. The scenes in the karaoke bar with Ava also feature some good spray-paint textures that add grit and a hint of unreality to a very tense conversation, and the neons and moody blues and blacks of the city at nighttime pump up the sci-fi vibe very nicely.
McLean’s lettering is competent, though a distinct font or a bit of styling on the narration to differentiate it from the dialogue would be welcome. The narrative boxes are picked out in a different color, but the outlines appear to blend into the art and colors at times in ways that don’t seem intentional. The font is narrow, left-leaning and claustrophobic, which suits the world “Queen of Bad Dreams” and helps build a procedural mood.
Overall, “Queen of Bad Dreams” is an interesting book with a compelling female protagonist, a neat concept and, hopefully, a whole lot of weird dreams to come. Pick it up wherever fine comics are sold on 4/24.