Comics Are Trying to Break Your Heart #84 by Drew Barth

How Bad Can A Dream Be?

There have been plenty of stories that deal with dreams. Either characters having to jump into a friend’s head to dissect what about their dreams is disturbing them or having to pull the dream out into the real world to fight it off. But what if the latter kept happening—what if dreams kept popping out of people’s heads with enough frequency that a whole governmental department had to be created to deal with them? This is the world of Queen of Bad Dreamsthat Danny Lore, Jordi Pẽrez, Dearbhla Kelly, and Kim McLean have created for us and is the kind of comic series that jolts you awake in the middle of the night.

Queen of Bad Dreams is, for the most part, a story about family. It is the family we dream of having—sometimes we dream it so hard that it comes to life before our very eyes. This is what Daher Wei and Viv have in their daughter, Selene. But this kind of dream isn’t necessarily the norm. Daher is an Inspector Judge for the Morphean Annex, the governmental agency that deals with escaped dreams, and has a specific role when it comes to those dreams: execute, return, or free. From what we see from the first few pages, the execution is rather gruesome. And her own daughter is someone whom she had freed even before becoming an Inspector Judge. So what about returning dreams? This is where things get weird and complicated as a rising political star has an escaped dream that knows all of his family secrets–all of the worst from a family of politicians. On the one hand, a part of Daher’s job is to return these dreams to their dreamers if necessary; on the other hand, the family in question are a swarm of slimy assholes. So, you know, decisions.

But what is it about family that Lore and Pẽrez really want us to see throughout Queen of Bad Dreams? There is a continual thread of connections—the ones we make as people and how we are all bound together in certain situations. Ava, the escaped dream from the rising politician, is bound to her original dreamer, but he isn’t family or anything close to that. Daher, Viv, and Selene, despite their limited interactions with Ava, act more as a family or at least as someone actually familiar. While the political family will see Ava as a tool in dreams or a liability in the real world, Daher and her family can empathize with her desire to remain her own person. 

Queen of Bad Dreams is the kind of work that comics needs as voices like Lore’s and Pẽrez’s aren’t heard often in monthly comic spaces. It’s one of the reasons Vault is quickly becoming a favorite publisher since they’re giving platforms to creators of color and nonbinary creators who haven’t been well represented in the past. Giving these voices space is necessary to keep comics relevant and inclusive. And without these voices, we don’t have their stories, and their stories are what live on to inspire generations afterward. 

Get excited. Get dreaming. 

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Drew Barth (Episode 331) is a writer residing in Winter Park, FL. He received his MFA from the University of Central Florida. Right now, he’s worrying about his cat.