I never had much of an interest in comic books/graphic novels when I was younger. Whenever I searched the shelves of a bookstore, I never could find anything that really stuck to me on the emotional and intellectual level.
Fantastic Four? Nope.
Superman? Meh, kind of predictable considering the status of the comic industry of today.
…You get my point. I find today that mainstream artists and writers are recycling the same material. Today’s formula falls flat considering how marginalized comics are and the wealth of potential they have as literature. Characters have about as much development and depth as a teaspoon, and whenever they are brought back to life, I just sigh in reaction while rolling my eyes in response to the very formula other writers have done. Hell, I can’t even remember the last time I picked up a comic book from DC or Marvel, Dark Horse.
Sorry, I tend to ramble on this subject thanks to the creative influence of David Lillie. Allons-y! The Dreamkeepers series awaits!
Before I truly got interested in reading the series, I explored their website with all the eagerness of a child. I came across a particular section that blew me away with a detailed blog on the sad state of today’s comic industry. I can’t summarize it, but I suggest that you check out their site to see what it’s all about.
Now the story: The plot is set in a world that parallels our own reality closely; we have no knowledge of them nor do they of us. The people mirror our own lives, wants, needs, and dreams. They are also our first and last line of defense against the Nightmares who seek to kill all Dreamkeepers and touch humanity with their influence. Anduruna, the largest city in the dream world, has become complacent and dismisses the notion of Nightmares as mere fiction to scare children, it having been several hundred years since their war with them in the first place. They now return after skulking in the shadows.
The protagonists consist of Mace, an orphan, along with his diminutive and floating best friend, Whip. Here, I was reminded of Bill Watterson’s Calvin and Hobbes. Then, we have Lilith and Namah Calah, the first who is the daughter of the Viscount, the top political figure of Andurna, the latter being the illegitimate daughter. While events seem disconnected and isolated, it develops to draw all four into the spider’s web.
Then, there is the setting: It’s an interesting mix of sci-fi and fantasy; for example there’s “Info scrolls,” which parallel our smart-phones and “telepads,” which act as transportation throughout the city. There’s more I can go into; there are breaks away from the traditional molds, in an innovative way.
On the subject of characters: I know immediately what you’re thinking of when it comes to the anthro-designed characters – Furries. Withhold premature assumptions and stay on target; this graphic novel series is more than it appears to be. One of the more intriguing aspects is not just the character design of the protagonists but also that of the citizens; the world is made up of anthropomorphic characters mixed with mythological animal and animal appearances that make it a treat to search even the scenery. Characters are different in the dream world with a distinguishing physical characteristic that makes them unique.
The characterization shows that there’s a lot more than meets the eye. The characters don’t fall under certain stereotypes. They have personalities that make them likeable and easy to relate to, while having this alluring depth.
I cannot comment on the antagonists at the moment, as there are more questions than answers in the first volume. While the portrayal of characters like Tinsel and Ravat can seem like cardboard cut-outs, I feel it does serve to tease the readers on their history and generate mystery over just who they are and why they’re doing what they do. For now, I’ll withhold judgment on their development.
For the writing: I found it very well-done. The dialogue was believable and did not veer off from the personality of the characters. When events became serious, it was serious; there was no exaggeration as it was succinct and to the point, no need to wash and repeat. There are amusing moments, though I must admit that while the beginning starts light-hearted enough, it gives me the impending feeling that there will be a looming darker aspect to the story as it progresses.
Artwork: The first volume’s scenery is affixed mainly to urban environments, but is nonetheless interesting to see. There is quite a bit of influence from different cultural backgrounds. For example, the Kojiki district locale features buildings made in the style of Japanese housing and design. Then, there’s the color toning that fits the scenery perfectly and can either uplift you or create a suspenseful feel as you turn the next page.
Further, you get the feeling that this world is David’s own creation. It is original and a welcome breath of fresh air. He has also compiled on his website cultural information on things such as the history of Anduruna and its development into a modern society, marriage customs, technology, the Dreamkeepers themselves and Nightmares.
The Wrap Up: I can easily recommend this for anyone with an interest in great artwork, character development, story, and plot. Dreamkeepers has something for everyone, from every genre to sub-genre.
If I were to give a rating for this, I would say that it’d be up in the PG-13 range concerning the amount of blood and gore. There is some swearing as well. I would not hand this over to a child, but definitely for teenagers and above ages.
There’s also a “Prelude” comic, a lighthearted, much more humorous depiction of Mace, Namah, Lilith before the events of the first volume.
I plan also to write up reviews of Volumes Two and Three later on.
Finally from myself, I must thank David and Liz Lillie for sharing this wonderful story to us all. My hat is off to them both for putting tremendous effort and creativity into their work.
~ Peter Volkov