After a fantastic brief run that has featured jaunts through dreams, fantasy, science fiction and so much more, Lucy Dreaming reaches its conclusion this week. For a book that has featured so much innovation and charm, and created a likeable, witty and fun-loving protagonist in Lucy, knocking it out of the park should be relatively easy, right? Ah, if only it were that simple…
We pick up directly from the previous issue, where Lucy has found herself in an Alice in Wonderland-type of world, face to face with a large talking mouse who has declared that she has to save the world. Elaborating further, he reveals himself as a Watcher-like creature for Storyscape, the dream world that Lucy has been getting mixed up in, and states that Lucy has been destined for greatness and is on the path to godhood. However, there’s just one little problem, and that turns out to be Welsey, Lucy’s best friend. In the last issue, it turned out Welsey had manipulated her and was really after power and domination, a sort of revenge against the world for how he was abandoned by his father. In essence, he’s abusing the same abilities that Lucy came in possession of. The mouse convinces Lucy that she needs to stop Welsey from destroying her world, and so we get transported back into battle.
An epic battle ensues. In a relatively cool manner, Bemis manages to pull together pieces from each of the first four issues while also letting Dialynas go to town with more fictional stand-ins as participants and bystanders in the final showdown. In the end, there’s a happy ending, everyone celebrates, and then we see an endearing metatextual technique on the last page. Sounds good, review over, I’m sold, you might be saying. What’s the big deal?
The snappy dialogue and humor are still there, Lucy’s voice is as sardonic and dry as ever, and there’s even a larger dominating point made by this issue, and hinted at briefly in the last issue, that Welsey is a toxic male and ultimately needs to be stopped. Unfortunately, that final point is a great opportunity that is ultimately bungled and because of the miss, causes more problems in the story. On its own, the topic of toxic masculinity could be a point of fascinating character study and give Lucy an opportunity to steer him towards redemption. Redemption is a technique that has been used so many times in fiction because it works so well. Not even cold-blooded killers are beyond salvation (see Crime and Punishment). Beyond that, the topic of toxic masculinity is something that is dominating the discourse on social media and in society in general. In the wake of #metoo, men across the world are being forced to rethink their behavior and interaction with women. This could have been a great opportunity for Bemis to dig into what makes the mind of someone like Welsey tick and even show a way out and a blueprint for reformation. Instead, Welsey is not only defeated, but is then banished without addressing the root cause (parental abandonment). Now I could have lived with a choice to not reform Welsey if the decision was to lock him up or worse – after all, he did try to kill Lucy and her family! But if he is deemed beyond redemption, then why let him go? It just doesn’t make any sense and doesn’t solve any problems, from a practical perspective.
As if this wasn’t bad enough, there is little to no resolution of some of the major issues brought up early on in this saga, including Lucy’s isolation at school, the ethics behind her parents and Welsey’s parents experimenting on the both of them, and no follow-up on Lucy getting manipulated by Welsey in the first place. The easy answer to this is that this is just a light-hearted story that isn’t supposed to be taken so seriously, but given the introduction of a very serious social issue in this chapter, that line of thinking falls flat. With all of this, it seems like Bemis is content to dangle the carrot in front of the reader and show us great potential to explore some fascinating issues ranging from romance, abandonment and scientific ethics. However, rather than following through on this potential, we get a run-of-the-mill happy ending instead of really being challenged. The quick and dirty beatdown Welsey’s avatar gets seems to be symbolic of this easy way out.
Just like in the last chapter, the art makes the issue worth picking up for those who have stayed with the series up until this point. Dialynas peaks at the right time and shows a staggering amount of versatility. We already mentioned how he manages to throw in more tributes to fictional characters from different franchises, in this case going much more close-up, but there’s more. He not only manages to bring the four very different avatars from the first four issues together and have them team up in the same battle, but he completely changes up his art style to follow up on last issue’s ending while showing the meeting between Lucy and the Watcher-mouse. It’s an incredibly impressive feat that should also serve as a great sales pitch for future artistic opportunities. As much as I didn’t like the way this series ended, the art just kept getting better and better.
Lucy Dreaming was a fun ride with an intriguing premise and tantalizing potential, but ultimately the conclusion whiffs the landing. Rather than dig deep into fascinating issues that were served up on a platter throughout the series and were dying for a proper resolution, the conclusion is basically a victory lap that feels hollow when you realize it could have been paired with so much more character exploration. Definitely pick this up for the art, but otherwise this is a disappointment.