Slumber introduces us to Stetson, a so-called “Dream Eater” who battles nightmares, and Detective Finch, the man investigating a series of bizarre murders. Fantastical horror ensues!
But first, Tyler Burton Smith eases us into this world by presenting readers with a deadly mystery. These scenes play out in the style of a quirky procedural, complete with the unlikely consultant arriving on the scene in an unorthodox style of dress and generally making an ass of himself in pursuit of the truth. It’s a setup towards which most audiences likely feel some familiarity — which is a smart choice, because even though things are already pretty gnarly in the real world, it’s got nothing on the weirdness to come.
Things kick into high gear when we finally get a chance to see Stetson at work. These sequences operate on dream logic in particularly inventive ways, and Vanessa Cardinali is clearly having a blast creating these fantasy worlds that are personal to each client. Characters change faces and dimensions between panels, spouting dialogue that only tangentially relates to the last thing they said. It all makes a certain kind of sense if you follow the threads, but it’s also disorienting at the same time, just like the scariest dreams.
The characterization of Stetson was a bit of a shock, but in a fun way. The fact that she’s so direct in how she goes about business – to the point where she’s fully nonplussed by some of the heinous things she has to see and do — is oddly hilarious, not at all what you’d expect from someone charged with extracting a person’s worst nightmares. And yet, a big part of the charm of this book is the continued theme of nobody particularly enjoying their job, no matter how otherworldly it may be.
Simon Robins’ colors positively pop throughout, but the dream sequences are a hell of a showcase. Everything feels just a bit off, like someone’s popped cheap bulbs into a neon lamp, or – quite appropriately, in the case of one dream sequence – like you took the wrong turn at the carnival. The mix of colors in these scenes feel both whimsical and diseased. When that sense of unease begins to seep into the real world, Robins and Smith find ways of blurring those lines quite nicely. Everything feels just a bit off in those moments, leaving the reader questioning the nature of reality right along with the characters.
The first issue of Slumber does quite a bit of table-setting, rapidly introducing us to our cast and building some mysteries and relationships we don’t quite understand just yet. But it does so in a way that is undeniably entertaining.
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