Two worlds are established in the first three pages of Parasomnia: the dirty, trash-littered and crumbling modern world, where violence is easily found under the overpass, and a hazy, supernatural space where violence is waiting among the gnarled woods. With a distinctly sparse amount of information about either of these places (or the people we meet in them), the presumed hook of the issue appears to be the reader’s need to reconcile the two, to solve the nominal mystery that may or may not connect these two worlds.
That’s a pretty small hook with which to catch a reader, and yet that seems to be it, however baited it might be by the intricate, immersive art of Andrea Mutti, whose work contains the most compelling details given to us in the first issue — even if those details are not foundational to our story. We know the second, spooky world is unnatural for certain because trees have faces well before the narrative expressly allows for the supernatural.
Mutti has a sensibility of color and light that manages to make even waiting in line beautiful.
Cullen Brown’s very light touch on the issue is compelling, if fragile; no exposition, no formal introductions, and no transitions keep the story progression pointedly, thematically ethereal, but it also keeps the reader at a firm emotional distance. Nothing much beyond violence and sadness draws us to the small cast of either reality, and when things start gaining steam in the back half of the issue, it’s hard to tell whether we should feel much of anything at all. Our mysterious masked man, with his Gunslinger-tough and oblique inner narrative, feels rigid. Almost as wooden as the actual wooden boy of the story.
It’s a lovely issue with a unique aesthetic and an implied mystery, sure. The craftsmanship is clear, considered. The question is, is any of it strong enough to stand out on the racks? Is there anything here that screams “buy me!” Well, yes, the aforementioned wooden boy. He seems like a real charmer, unlike his peers of the issue, Assaulted Hobo and Crying Woman.
It’s a first issue that does little to thrill a reader, and there’s little here to evoke the curiosity that the story relies on; there’s a literal mystery box in here, which seems so horribly on the nose as to be obnoxious.
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