Two comics launch today. Dream Thief and Dream Merchant. Is the only difference that one sells dreams and the other steals them? Obviously not, but some similarities do stick out.
Both books are heavily narrated by the main character – both of which seem to have very little idea what is going on. During the first issue, we get an inkling but it's still mostly all up in the air.
Dream Merchant is a soft slowly told tale of a man possessed by his regular nightly dream, the effect it has on his life and those around him, his institutionalisation and the impact that has on his dreams and their very vivid reality. He is, however, not the Dream Merchant.
Dream Thief is more down to earth, at least initially, a man with his own weaknesses which end up withe him stealing an aboriginal mask which has interesting effects. And yes, that is slightly similar to another comic, also published by Dark Horse. Except this is a little more visceral, you go to sleep and when you wake up you have a lot of other people's memories and you know that you've just killed. Again.
Merchant taps into the imagery, the reality and the impact of dreams asking questions about what they mean and what they could be. Thief has people doing drugs, shooting, stabbing, strangling and leaves the dreaming off panel. It actively avoids much of which Dream Merchant embraces. It's less Sandman and more 100 Bullets.
Both use the comics form remarkably well however. Here's a few favourite panels. From Dream Thief, accessing the memories and thoughts of another man to do the kind of thing he never could do, by way of a transformative sound effect.
As is a particularly effective double page, with panels making up a question mark and an exclamation point… But a bit too spoilery to show here, let's just have the question.
Dream Merchant is slower and more languid, a more of a mangaesque approach to storytelling, such as this, wordless, page. The dream world itself is shown through off angles, stretched limbs, both falling and floating simultaneously.
You also do get 45 story pages on thick glossy paper for $3.50, double what you get from Dream Thief's 22 pages for $3.99. Thief is more compact, Merchant has more room to stretch, but again that both serves their respective styles of story well. Dream Merchant is Sandman to Dream Thief's Criminal.
My advice? Pick up both. Despite the titles and narrative approaches, you'll be getting two rather good and distinct experiences. Read them both in bed, before you go to sleep.
Dream Thief #1 by Jai Nitz and Greg Smallwood, published by Dark Horse Comics.
Dream Merchant #1 by Nathan Edmondson and Konstantin Novosadov, published by Image Comics.
Comics courtesy of Orbital Comics, London, who are launching the Image Collector exhibition, reappropriating the work of Roy Lichtenstein, tomorrow. Also, have you voted in the Bleeding Cool Fan Awards? Only a few days left…