One Punch Reviews #42: Dream Life
Dreams are a fascinating theme for a writer to tackle. It gives carte blanche to play with surreal imagery, such as, oh, a Duchess who plays croquet using a flamingo and a hedgehog or a huge cityscape falling in on itself. It lets you explore the realm of your mind that you should control, but for some reason slips beyond your grasp. Our dreams represent a highly personal and private experience, so it’s embarrassing enough when we let slip the events going on in our slumber. How do you react when someone’s peeking in on your most unguarded moments?
This fragile mental ecosystem that you enter when you close your eyes at night is one of the major themes of Dream Life: A Late Coming of Age, a webcomic written by comic artist Salgood Sam (a.k.a. Max Douglas, but in reverse). It’s also about mystery, the crises we go through as we age… and Charlie Brown, surprisingly.
Dream Life opens in a sequence straight out of an artist’s portfolio. We begin with a juxtaposition between sea life and the sun. (What is this symbolic of? I don’t know, but the solar flares are pretty.) We then slip into a scenario that’s more tangible; a dreamer named Charles floats through a landscape dominated by a naked red-haired woman (NSFW) and eventually zips around on a hover scooter. It’s a colorful, imaginative world that’s contrasted by the black and white flatness of everyday life… namely his day job at a call center.
Charles is only one of several characters featured in Dream Life. One moment we’re following a hitchhiker in British Columbia, the next we’re following a college student in Toronto, and then a buffalo burger enthusiast in Seattle.
Salgood Sam reveals in an interview with The Fabler that all supposed to be representative archetypes of Peanuts characters. While Dream Life is not as overt as Weapon Brown, I can see the parallels. The lady psychologist, for example, is clearly Lucy Van Pelt. However, I missed the Charles Shultz connection the first time reading Dream Life, so a working knowledge of the Peanuts gallery is hardly essential.
Not all dreams are pleasant escapes from reality like Charles’ are. Lionel dreams of a world inside the capillaries of leaves where a redheaded girl passively threatens him. When he awakes, he finds that he’s scrawled something haunting.
Salgood Sam is most comfortable with communicating with the reader through art, and it generally works. I couldn’t help but be entranced by the most simple of images, like the detail on crumbling rocks in the dream world or finding beauty in something as utilitarian as power lines in the real world. Sometimes, though, his focus on the imagery can be detrimental. I felt key details (like character names) were unnecessarily banished to the margins of the blog post. Shouldn’t this information be incorporated in the comic somehow? I’m not suggesting we should go back to restoring thought balloons and caption boxes, but perhaps weaving these details into a character’s dialogue would feel more natural.
Even this isn’t that much of a detriment, though. Long, dialogue-free stretches reinforce the dreamlike states the characters are in, even when awake. It’s light on the plot so far. However, Dream Life is one of those weird comics where the story is secondary. It’s more like an orchestral piece, only you allow the artwork, rather than the music, to buffet you through the emotional highs and lows of each movement.
Rating: 4 stars (out of 5.)