Reviewing J. Michael Straczynski’s Dream Police #2

GameStop, Inc.
DreamPolice 2 CoverA by Sid Kotian & Bill Farmer

CoverA by Sid Kotian & Bill Farmer

Joe Thursday and his partner Kate Black are Dream Police; they deal with rough and unmanageable situations in the Dreamscape, keeping it safe (or mostly safe) for dreamers and the full-time inhabitants of the Dreamscape.

In the first issue of Dream Police, Straczynski made it apparent that things are not quite as usual, even in this shifting realm. Dream Police #2 continues to define the Dreamscape, giving a tour of more of its locales and inhabitants. The central mystery or mysteries are furthered a little with signs that the Dreamscape is not, and may never have been, the orderly place Joe continues to describe. In the last issue, Joe’s partner, Frank vanished, and Joe promptly forgot him. In addition, both issues have featured “rare” threats. Reading, one wonders when Joe himself will begin to take notice.

Dream Police Cover B by Anna Dittman

Cover B by Anna Dittman

There is the further question of Joe’s dreams. He and Kate are both sure that Dream Police don’t dream–only, now he is. There is also the question of Kate herself: Is she a pawn in this plot or a player? Does she really think she has always been Joe’s partner, or is she in the Dream Police for her own purposes?

The setting helps Dream Police engaging. It is an ever-shifting landscape populated by a collection of strange beings, each with its own function. Several of them, the changelings, have the job of constantly appearing to be something other than they are. Then there are architects who create the changing landscape, the nightmares Joe won’t talk about, the newly formed wisps, a whole host of other beings, and the Dreamers, who visit the Dreamscape and change it.

Although the background information on the Dreamscape is much appreciated, it does run Dream Police straight into the dilemma many first-person narratives face: Who is Joe talking to? Why is he giving a tour of the Dreamscape? The people who live there already know, and the readers are inhabitants of the waking realm and so, in theory, out of reach. Possibly Straczynski will clarify this as the tale continues, or perhaps we’re not supposed to ask.

Not that Joe’s voice isn’t engaging: His tough cop voice gives the comic its tone, setting this up as a noir mystery. Placing it against the bizarre landscapes gives the genre a different take. Whatever’s going on, this isn’t the usual gritty mystery. It’s got a twist to it that keeps matters unpredictable and off-balance. The mystery isn’t a disappearance, it’s a complete erasure. No, it’s an entire world that will need unraveling before we know what’s going on.

Artist Sid Kotian and colorist HiFi create this world for readers, giving each of the Dreamscapes many settings it’s own feel. There’s the over-brightness of the children’s world, the deliberately stereotyped dimly-lit offices of the police, a beautiful beach for dreamers, and a background, nighttime city that looks normal from the distance. And there are the Dream Police themselves: rumpled, trench-coated, and in the case of the men, square-jawed. It’s the perfect setup for this strange tale.

Dreamscape has not fully taken off yet; the mystery is still more a collection of hints than a full-fledged investigation, but it promises to go in some odd directions and is definitely worth keeping an eye on.

Writer: J. Michael Straczynski
Artist: Sid Kotian
Colorist: HiFi
Letters: Troy Peteri
Covers: Cover A–Sid Kotian & Bill Farmer; Cover B–Anna Dittman

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