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The Dream Merchant #1 is Well Executed but a Tad Bland

The Dream Merchant #1 is Well Executed but a Tad Bland

Dream Merchant cover

The Dream Merchant
Written by Nathan Edmonson
Art by Konstantin Novosadov
Published by Image Comics

Dreams a pretty easy thing to write about, mostly because you can make up whatever crazy crap you want and it’ll fly like a kite. Six headed dragon with the faces of Bea Arthur? Sure, why not. Sea of hotdogs? Go nuts. Bunch of guys in business casual running around a gray cityscape? Well, I suppose…if you want to be boring about it.

Anyway, comics are no exception to the tendency of writers to go for dream-related stories, and the latest one, a new series called “The Dream Merchant” by Nathan Edmonson, hit the shelves this week.

Our protagonist is Winslow, a young man haunted by recurring dreams so severe he’s been thrown in the loony bin where he spends most of his time making googly eyes at the girl who serves lunch and chatting with schizophrenics. That is of course until he spots three mysterious figures off in the distance in his dreamscape (sorta like in that one Super Mario Galaxy 2 level…) who then show up in reality and start throwing evil claws at him and quoting Dark City. Pretty soon Winslow and lunch girl are on the run, aided by a mysterious old man in a cloak who totally isn’t Obi-Wan Kenobi.

Last week we saw how “Chin Music” could fail as a first issue by not revealing enough about itself to get the reader hooked. “The Dream Merchant” sidesteps this problem, partially thanks to a hefty 50-page count, but it also has the common decency to tell us a little something about the characters, so we can actually relate to them and get a handle on what makes them tick. Mostly this applies to Winslow, whose backstory is properly fleshed out. We also get a fair amount of narration, but herein lies the one major

A lot of the dialogue, especially the narrative text-boxes, feel a tad clunky in their sentence structuring and flow. Things like contractions are dream merchant interiorabout as rare as a meatball sub that doesn’t make you feel fat and unhealthy afterwards, and readers who pay attention to that sort of thing will find themselves repeatedly asking “Who talks like this?”. There’s also a bit of over-wrought prose here and there, and after a while one can only read so many sentences along the lines of “It is easy to mistake the chill down your spine for the morning air, and the whisper of evil for silence”.

Another thing that keeps things from true greatness so far is that while everything is perfectly well-executed, the ideas on display are a tad on the generic side. Mid-20s blonde haired white dude on the run from bald figures in black cloaks, aided by another bald guy in a black cloak, the only difference being he’s a few hairs shy of rocking a set of Pai Mei eyebrows. Not exactly the most visually distinctive setup ever, and as we covered before, dreams are fairly well-trod ground as far as themes go.

Art wise, the book is very strong, not overloading the viewer with too much detail (another thing “Chin Music” could learn a thing or two about) and building strong color associations (All the dreams and dream-related events are viewed through a bright pink sheen, like someone doused the page in Pepto-Bismol) and action is easy to follow.

“The Dream Merchant” is a somewhat hard comic to write about. It doesn’t do anything so glaringly wrong that you can easily spend 400 words tearing it a new one, but likewise there isn’t enough genius on display that you can praise it to the heavens. As competent as the execution is, we are still dealing with a fairly generic setup and set of characters here, and the dialogue does again lack a bit of flow. Overall, you could do far worse for something new to add to your pull list, but nobody would blame you for holding out for something a tad more original.