For most of my time during quarantine, I’ve found myself taking time to reflect on my own mental landscape. While it’d be easy to say that many of us going through a collective trauma, I find that we’re all also living in a collective nostalgia. Nowhere else did I find a better example of this collective trauma laced in nostalgia than my reading of Arkham Dreams, a crossover miniseries by Sam Keith where his original creation The Maxx and The Batman of DC comics explore the Outback.
With everything that has been happening in our real world, there is such a deep desire to hide from our problems and live in delusion. Granted, we all need those delusions to stop from breaking down. I think we all find that in our art, which is why we’re all looking at comics to distract ourselves from this pain. Sam Keith has always been taking that delusion and titrating it into a societal medicine. From his original run of The Maxx, which used the superhero genre to look at the trauma of rape and childhood, we now have a miniseries that teleologically glances at the social hurting we have in heroes like Batman. With the initial run of these comics, I didn’t understand the message in the medium. But having a chance to consume it through this paperback, the medicinal aide is not lost on me.
Keith has not lost a step, and continually purports his exaggerated caricature drawing onto figures that lend them into an artistic nightmare from the mind of children. At times cartoonish, other times the art is rendered as though the images are for an art design showcase. With each magnetic stroke of his line work, readers are enraptured into a narrative dream that Keith never lets you forget you’re in, as though it’s a waking nightmare.
One of the stellar parts that bring this cohesion together is through colorist Ronda Pattison, whose watercolor style transports the reader into that dream world. Letterer Shawn Lee rounds out a great team that executes this book on the artistic side of things.
The power of Keith has never been through the ability to draw such wondrous spectacle, but to take it with such absurdity and yet have a wonderfully humane depth that no one gave it credit. These are the moments that truly make me happy when I have the privilege of reading comics alone by myself. But the truth is, “no one is alone.”
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