As anyone that’s had to listen to the boring dreams of others knows, dreams are only interesting to the dreamer (unless you’re making an appearance). Similarly, dreams are tricky to write about well. It’s too easy to fall into cliche and banality. Thus, it was with trepidation but hopefulness that I entered Nathan Edmonson and newcomer Konstantin Novosadov’s “The Dream Merchant” #1. The ideas behind this mini-series are solid, but pacing issues and too many old cliches hold it back from being great.
The visuals throughout “The Dream Merchant” #1 are stunning. There’s a cohesive look to the book that is both consistent and extremely well chosen. Novosadov excels at storytelling from the way he lays out a page to his character acting and design. Of everything that works so beautifully in Novosadov’s art, it’s the colors that speak the loudest. “The Dream Merchant” has a soft subtle palette that morphs effortlessly from scene to scene, reflecting events in a way that most comics have forgotten. A night scene is flooded with muted tones, a contrasting day scene with an almost surreal artificial brightness, a dream sequence with unreal monochromatic pinks. The art has a committed and definitive style (one I happen to enjoy, although individual reader mileage may vary), but it’s the colors that really impressed me page after page. Novosadov sweeps you into his world with a confident totality that is the definition of good comics.
While the visuals are a home run, the writing and plotting left a lot to be desired. The plotting was decompressed where it didn’t need to be, feeling repetitive and stagnant. Conversely the book felt rushed when it needed more information to keep from falling into “dream cliches” and the ever so frustrating technique of deliberately withholding information. Additionally there’s a painfully awkward info dump that would have been less noticeable except that in general the writing was sparse and clean. In fact, I liked much of the writing style — from character voices to the pared down style Edmonson uses in general — but there was an inelegance in the execution that might have benefited from an editor.
“The Dream Merchant” #1 is worth a look based on Novosadov’s art alone, but there is great potential in Edmondson’s story. This first issue was not nearly as successful as I’d hoped, but just based on the suggestions of where it’s headed, I’ll be buying the second issue as well. If Edmonson can bring the story up to the level of Novosadov’s visuals it will be a mini-series worth having.