Previously: Dream Police #8
It feels so good to not have to begin this review with a mention of the many months which have passed between the previous issue and the current one; this is the second issue in as many months, and it works so well because of that fact.
Dream Police #9 picks up right where Dream Police #8 left us: Joe Thursday and his partner, Kate Black, have just begun their first actual conversation with the mysterious Frank Stafford. This brief opening bookend goes so far to introduce Kate and Frank, literally and figuratively, to each other; I love the character of Kate Black, and I will continue saying that until we reach an issue where it isn’t true.
After that introductory moment, the bulk of this issue cleverly fills us in on just what the hell happened to Frank when he disappeared out of Joe’s life, where he’s actually been all this time, and how his journey back to his partner has informed a great deal of the series so far.
There are some good things about this and one glaringly bad thing. First, the explanation for Frank’s whereabouts–and, in turn, the entirety of the Dreamscape–is riveting. Learning about what Frank has been through was well-paced and expertly told (Straczynski is a great writer, as if that’s a surprise). This is a bit of a spoiler, but not much: Frank’s actions are almost entirely driven by his loyalty to his partner, Joe Thursday. That’s to be expected, so I hope it isn’t too much of a spoiler, but I had to mention it because the story uses dramatic transference to make it work. We saw Joe and Frank as partners, and they were clearly close, in the first issue, but that’s it. Almost everything we know about partnerships in this world comes from what we’ve seen between Joe and Kate. Because the partnership between Joe and Kate has been so well-crafted and realistically developed, asking the reader to now believe Frank Stafford would go through everything he has, just to get back to Joe, works just fine. You believe the partnership between Joe and Frank was so strong because of how strong the same partnership is between Joe and Kate. I really like that.
I did mention a glaringly bad thing, and we’ve come to the point where I can no longer delay–so to speak–revealing what it is. In this issue, we revisit multiple moments we have previously seen from Joe’s perspective, but now we are seeing them from Frank’s perspective. This is a very effective way of tying these two paths together and showing how they have not been far apart for this whole time… very effective, that is, if you’re reading all of these issues in one sitting. If you put off reading this series for two years and let all 9 issues pile up, you can read them all to this point and get a hell of a lot out of revisiting those moments in previous issues. If, however, you have been reading each issue as they have trickled out, you’ll read this issue with a certain knee-jerk motion: “Oh, I kind of remember that!” and “Wait, did we see this before, or is this an expanded version of the scene?” were thoughts I had float through my mind as I read this issue. If/when we reach the end of this series–or even just an arc ending–I may want to go back and reread the whole thing to get that smooth storytelling structure, but with a release schedule as erratic as this one has been, with multiple instances of 6+ months between issues, revisiting those previous moments fell pretty flat for me. Release schedules often cannot be helped; I get it, but that reality is detrimental to the kinds of story elements present in this issue.
Beyond the story, the art continues to impress. This issue offers two very distinct opportunities for Sid Kotian and/or Hi-Fi to illustrate wildly distinct settings, and it carries wonderfully. The marriage between artist and writer on this series has been one of its saving graces, and that is one of the most apparent advantages to publishing with Image Comics: creator-owned means they work on their own schedule, sure, but it also means you get a consistent vision throughout, and they only change creatives when/if they choose to. Straczynski, Kotian, and Hi-Fi have been a constant presence on this series, and it shows; even as there have been so many delays, it’s a testament to their talents that the series truly does still manage to work as a coherent story, both plot-wise and visually.
Barring a delay, which I do not foresee, we will be getting a third issue in as many months, and I am so happy to be on a real schedule with this series that I don’t know what I might do. See you then, I hope.
Dream Police #9
Frank Stafford’s explanation for where he has been is not only an interesting idea, but it is also cleverly interlaced within the series we have seen thus far. The issue’s plot suffers from the series’ overall, unfortunate, often-delayed release schedule, but its hits still manage to outnumber its misses by quite a bit.
Without another series to promote, we’re back to no back matter this issue, but that has been the case for the majority of this series, so no problem there.