Review: ‘The Dream Merchant’ #1

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‘Olympus’ scribe, Nathan Edmondson, teams up with newcomer, Konstantin Novosadov, for a new mini-series that breaks down the barrier between dreams and reality. A fairly original idea, the book follows an institutionalized boy named Winslow who’s unable to differentiate between waking states and sleep states, all due to his inability to function through hauntingly cryptic recurring dreams. In his dreams come the memories of what his world was made to forget, and the evil entities that will stop at nothing to erase his subconscious.

The Dream Merchant #1 kicks off the sci-fi series with a double-sized issue, generously packed with more content than expected from a first installment. Yet, even with the rapid progression of character, narrative, and mystery building cultivated by Edmondson, something about the issue falls short of greatness, and lands only a few steps above adequate.

WRITTEN BY: Nathan Edmondson
ART BY: Konstantin Novosadov
PUBLISHER: Image Comics
PRICE: $3.50
RELEASE: May 15, 2013

In many ancient societies, dreaming was considered a means of supernatural communication or intervention, with a message that could be deciphered by people who possess certain powers. Perhaps inspired by these beliefs, Edmondson establishes Winslow’s dreams as events woven together by forces beyond the protagonist’s reckoning, and introduces a mysterious old traveler who wants to help Winslow control his dream states. Regarding the exact content of Winslow’s recurring dreams, readers are not provided with specifics, but between Edmondson’s descriptions and Novosadov’s expressive illustrations, it’s obvious that whatever it is Winslow became privy to, it’s not something he should have seen, nor is it something he’ll get away with seeing.

Winslow comes off as a little too mundane and uninteresting to lead the series. It’s just slightly boggling to know that even with 47 pages spent on the development of his character, Edmondson fails to make Winslow as appealing as the dark mystery surrounding his story. Fortunately, the minor characters affiliated with the mental institution offer a saving grace; his schizophrenic friend, Ziggy, and his love interest, Anne.

Novosadov’s work isn’t very well-known at this point, but by the end of this series, his style will definitely be distinguishable. That’s not to say his panel work is particularly impressive, but it does ooze character, and that’s worth noting. His drawings aren’t overly complicated, and the colours used aren’t insignificantly chosen; there’s an obvious colour scheme of pinks and blues disconnecting dream states from reality. Novosadov excels where the story calls for otherworldly beings to be depicted. His renderings of the regulators (the strange entities hunting Winslow) are reminiscent of “Harry Potter’s” dementors, in a way. And if Edmondson slightly modeled his regulators after J.K. Rowling’s creation, it wouldn’t be surprising.

“The Dream Merchant” #1, though built on a solid foundation, is not executed as well as it should be. There are moments where the dialogue doesn’t flow, instances where dream knowledge seems forced, and an unfortunate out-of-place Native American cultural appropriation that the issue could have done without. Besides all that, the series does have potential, so here’s hoping for an improved #2.

3/5 Skulls

Reviewed by – ShadowJayd