Previously, “Dream Police #5”
You can be forgiven, if perhaps you thought we’d given up on J. Michael Straczynski’s Dream Poilce, but we haven’t; there just hasn’t been a new issue published since November. I suppose it also follows you’re okay if you maybe forgot just what the hell Dream Police is even about or where the story last left off. The good news? Dream Police #6 drops you right back into the middle of the action, and it’s pretty easy pick up all the pieces again. The bad news? This does not feel like an issue I waited five months to read.
In case you haven’t read my reviews of the series’ previous five issues (why not?), I’ve seriously been enjoying this series. The world built by Straczynski–along with artists HiFi and Sid Kotian–is richly populated with all kinds of potential, and they have introduced a lot of very intriguing ideas and characters with which to play. Many of the panels in this series feel as though they’ve been ripped directly from Straczynski’s clearly active imagination. On top of that, the writing in the first few issues felt so well-constructed with clever twists and novel perspectives on reality and dreams. The last couple of issues, though? It feels like the ship has run out of steam.
The plot just seems to be progressing so slowly; it feels like it’s taken Joe and Kate longer to get to The Verge than it takes Goku to get to King Kai’s house. That wouldn’t be a big deal, if not for the fact that the series took a prolonged hiatus, in the middle of a storyline, and then came back to ostensibly do nothing in this issue. At the end of issue #5, they were on their way to The Verge; at the end of this issue, guess what they’re doing. This feels like filler in a medium where you’ve already got a very limited space to tell your story.
However, I cannot stress enough how invested I actually am in the story, even though it feels like everything I care about was established two or three issues ago. In this issue, we do get one very good sequence of dialogue–that feels like it could have been in the previous issue–between Joe and Mary, the dreamer he goes to in order to vent his frustrations. I enjoy this setup because it gives Joe an organic way to basically dictate to us his entire motivation for wanting to figure out what happened to Frank Stafford, his partner whom he doesn’t actually know anything about.
Beyond that, we do get a few good moments. First, Joe and Kate continue building a solid rapport; they interact as if they really have been partners forever. Next, the creative way Joe is able to manipulate the Dreamscape–and the dreamers within it–is great; his actions demonstrate how knowledgeable he is about the world in which he lives, and that goes a long way to establish just how long he’s seemingly been there. Lastly, there are a couple of good jokes about a Magic 8-Ball and a Ouija board; again, Straczynski is a clever writer. Oh, and we get another very Phantom Tollbooth name for a place in the Dreamscape: The Zone of Shared Perception.
What really shines in this issue is the art from Sid Kotian and Juan Fernandez. Each issue has allowed them to create unique settings and use their own imaginations to do so. One setup in this issue allows us to see a drone flying alongside pirate ships and a guy riding a pterodactyl; I mean, that’s just neat to see, and the artwork is high quality, so it looks really cool. The chosen panel layout is also something I think should be praised more in comics, and it does a great job, here, to help motivate a plot that needs all the motivation it can get. Also, there’s a dragon. I don’t mind letting that out of the bag because the real treat is how awesome the art looks (if you want to see it, you’ll have to see it somewhere else–preferably by buying the issue).
Ultimately, I did enjoy reading this issue–particularly for the artwork–but I can’t say it’s an issue you have to go out and buy now. I would have likely been fine with the issue, if it had been published in December, but the fact that this is the issue we get after the hiatus? I just can’t be happy with that. Back when I started reading Dream Police, I remember thinking it is a story that would be great in a movie or on television, and the more issues we get into it, the more I feel it is a story Straczynski is writing like a film or television series; in that sense, this would have been a filler episode.
Seriously, I very much enjoy the overall premise of this series–just read my previous reviews to see how much so–and I will keep very gladly buying and reviewing each issue, as soon as they’re published, but for you? If this is a series you think you’d be interested in but haven’t started yet? I would recommend waiting for the trade paperbacks, so you can just devour the glacial plot in one go and fully appreciate the very interesting story being told. Or, you know, wait for the movie or television series I very much hope Straczynski will attempt to get made, because I’m certain that would be great.