By: Nathan Edmondson (writer) and Konstantin Novosadov (art)
The Story: A man has strange dreams and is chased by spectres of death.
Review (with minor SPOILERS): This probably simply isn’t my type of comic. I’ll go into details about why I didn’t love it, but it obviously works for some people because as I pull-up the issue on my iPad, I see that the Comixology community is rating it 4/5 stars. Of course, most of the comics on Comixology have 4/5 stars, but still, someone is clicking those buttons and enjoyed the issue.
The major problem is that it doesn’t work very well as a #1 issue. First issues need to grab you and demand that you pay attention. Unfortunately, Dream Merchant is both too long and too oblique. I can already hear someone saying, “Wait! I liked the fact that this issue is ~50 pages. That’s a LOT of comic for the money.” That may be a great sentiment if you want to by comics by the pound, but anyone who has grocery shopped knows that you don’t necessarily want to buy the meat that offers the most bulk for the price. It isn’t that Dream Merchant if 50 pages of “bad”, its that a first issue needs to do something in the first 3-5 pages to command attention or else minds will wander. I’ll be honest: I fell asleep during the opening pages of this issue. When I returned to the comic and checked the app to see how many pages remained in a comic that I had committed to reviewing, it wasn’t a good feeling to see that I still had 40+ pages to go.
Make your point; make it snappy. Get in and get out. Lengthy comics have their place, but their place should be after the audience is already hooked.
The issue is also very oblique. I enjoy deep comics, but I demand that the depth come via the story (The Unwritten, Punk Rock Jesus, Fashion Beast, American Vampire: Lord of Nightmares, etc.) and not via highly worded text boxes. The narration boxes (the weakest form of comic storytelling, btw) on the opening page say, “Time is the only thing that keeps us from seeing coincidence for what it truly is. Purpose. I have this dream that I’m flying. A recurring dream. It is a place with no name.” See, to me, that sort of opening screams that something aggressively deep is about to happen and the readers should make sure to be sitting down when it happens. I personally don’t think it’s a very effective way to tell a story, but some people disagree. If you liked a comic like Change or you enjoy Ted McKeever comics, this is probably right up your alley.
Now, all is not lost with this comic. After about 20 pages of this dream-sequence stuff, we DO get into a story that is fairly direct with the main character and a potential-girlfriend being chased by these mysterious cloaked figures. THAT part of the issue was entertaining and I wonder if the issue would have been more successful if it had opened with the chase and THEN gotten into the dream-stuff. That would make it kinda like the great, great opening that Edmondon did on Who is Jake Ellis? #1. Oh well. You can’t really un-ring the bell.
The art is fine. It wasn’t anything that made be scramble to Google to learn more about the artist, but I also can’t say that there was a single weird-looking panel in the ~50 pages. The coloring is pretty good.
Conclusion: I’m not sure if this wasn’t a great comic or if it just wasn’t for me. To me, it comes off as feigning depth that the story hasn’t earned yet, but I’ve said that about comics before and had hipsters tell me that I was wrong.
– Dean Stell