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"Death Dreamer" Graphic Novel Review

Written by James Ferguson

Death Dreamer Vol 1 00

Written by Scott Ian Lewis
Illustrated by Christian DiBari
Colored by Simon Gough
Lettered by Taylor Esposito
54 Pages

Review:

Ex-con Tony Graves is settling in to his new job as an embalmer at Sunset Hills Mortuary. All is not what it seems at this funeral home, as corruption runs rampant. When a City Councilman mysteriously dies, Tony gets caught up in a web of violence that he's tried to desperately to escape.

Death Dreamer has a hook that can't be beat. It's easy to become completely engrossed in this world and all the strange things that surround Tony. We'll discount for a moment how on the nose the main character's name is. I mean, he's an embalmer with the last name “Graves.” Anyway, there's a lot going on in this all-too-brief graphic novel. That's my one major complaint about Death Dreamer. It's too short and tries hard to fill its 54 pages with so much material that it ends right when it really gets going.

Colorist Simon Gough creates this brilliant juxtaposition between the bright, sunny Los Angeles setting and the dark and gritty reality of Tony's job and the death that surrounds him. A heavenly opening is instantly snapped back to earth when you see a pale corpse lying on a coroner's slab. The blood particularly stands out, but not in the same way we see in most horror comics. Since we're mainly dealing with dead bodies, the blood has had time to pool and coagulate, turning into a dark crimson instead of a vibrant red. It adds a layer of dread to the entire experience.

Death Dreamer Vol 1 01Death Dreamer Vol 1 02
Click images to enlarge

Violence has followed Tony all his life, dating back to his childhood. We get a glimpse into this with his relationship with his sister and his interaction with his jaded colleague Bishop. Although he's been through some rough times, he's handling it well. You can see that he's on the road to recovery, but he can't quite escape the orbit of violence.

Artist Christian DiBari's design for Troy has these dark, hollow eyes, like he's forgotten how to feel joy. He probably hasn't smiled in ages and for good reason. Most of the time, Troy's eyes are concealed by shadows, like he's looking down or trying to avoid attention. This contrasts with the wide-eyed, vacant look of the corpses he handles.

DiBari displays some excellent art direction with the more action-packed scenes. He breaks from a traditional layout in favor of a frenetic and varied look with uniquely shaped panels that seem to fly across the page. They expertly guide the eye to focus on specific details. A splash of blood appears in the white background, underscoring the violence on display.

Death Dreamer Vol 1 03
Click image to enlarge

Death Dreamer is certainly in the running for one of the most terrifying images of the year in the form of a baby doll with its eyes cut out. It even has blood seeping out of its wounds. Thanks a lot, guys. That's something I'm going to be seeing while I fall asleep for a few days.

As mentioned, there's a lot of information packed into Death Dreamer. Letterer Taylor Esposito handles this well, keeping the word balloons in key areas that don't block any of DiBari's artwork. There are some pretty text-heavy sequences, so this is no easy task. I really like how Esposito highlights the more personal moments for some of the characters. When they're alone and whisper something to themselves, like a small pep talk, the font is smaller, like they're trying to keep this close without letting anyone else see what they're doing.

Death Dreamer has a lot of potential. This graphic novel, the first of what I hope are many more to come from writer Scott Ian Lewis, drops us instantly into a world of violence, death, and corruption. Gangsters are dealing in high stakes, both in money and in lives, and Troy Graves is stuck in the middle of it all. I just wish we got more out of it in this book as it ends without any real closure. It feels like the first chapter of a larger story and far from a tale with a beginning, middle, and end.

Grades:

Story: Threeandahalfstars Death Dreamer Vol 1 Cover
Art: Fourandahalfstars
Overall: Fourstars

About The Author
Spez Bio 2
Lord of the Funny Books
James has a 2nd grade reading level and, as a result, only reads books with pictures. Horror is his 5th favorite genre right after romantic comedy and just before silent films. No one knows why he's here, but he won't leave.
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