REVIEW: ‘Queen Of Bad Dreams’

Reading Time: 3 minutes

The Queen of Bad Dreams

Published by Vault Comics, Queen of Bad Dreams is written by Danny Lore and illustrated by Jordi Perez, with colors by Dearblha Kelly and lettering by Kim McLean. Set in the future. Queen of Bad Dreams presents a future fundamentally altered by Psychic Powers. In this world, the people and creatures who populate our dreams can emerge into the real world, given enough ambient psychic energy. When a dream figment does drop into reality, it’s up to the Inspector Judges of the Morpheum Annex to find the figment and evaluate their case. Gifted with psychic powers of their own, Inspector Judges are a part private eye, part caseworker and part executioner. Once judged, rogue figments may return to the mind of the dreamer or relocate to the real world. In the most dangerous cases,  rogue figments face termination.

Of all the Inspector Judges of the Morpheum Annex, none hold a candle to I.J. Daher Wei. Known at the annex as the ‘Golden Girl’ who always makes her case, Judge Wei tackles her duties with creativity and care. According to Wei, “When you’re dealing with dreams, you’re really dealing with people.” This attention to detail makes her the ideal investigator for sensitive cases. Now Wei must find and judge an escaped dream figment named Ava. At first glance, Wei sees a typical case of figment flight. The beautiful dream woman of a powerful councilwoman’s son, Ava escaped into the real world to live her own life. But as Wei investigates, she finds a web of conspiracy that reaches all the way to the top.

A sci-fi tale with a human heart, Queen of Bad Dreams is the queer intersectional feminist neo-noir you never knew you needed. It shakes up the noir formula in incredibly imaginative ways. Yet it also keeps enough gumshoe DNA in the mix to create a compelling web of intrigue. I try to limit how often I compare comics to other mediums. Comics have their own sort of magic that even movies can’t match. But I can’t deny that Queen of Bad Dreams moves with the exciting rush of a high octane blockbuster. This book’s momentum is spectacular, thanks in part to the ongoing narration. Provided by Wei’s ex-wife Viv, the narration allows the book to play out separate scenes concurrently. By doing this, each storyline’s momentum builds in tandem, amplifying every twist and turn for maximum effect.

Twists and turns may entertain, but the heart of every good noir lies in its detective. Inspector Judge Daher Wei makes for an ideal protagonist f this dreamy noir. With her array of psychic weaponry, Wei has the hand-to-hand combat skills to make every fight scene a joy. But unlike other Noir heroes, Wei isn’t world-weary. As an I.J., Wei behaves more like a social worker than a cop. She takes the time to talk to fugitive figments, treating nearly everyone she encounters with comfortable respect I found shocking. Wei honestly cares about people and fostering social connections, which sets this sci-fi noir in a league of its own.

I’m astounded by how vividly Queen of Bad Dreams paints its world. While its core noir narrative may ring familiar, its imaginative world of living dreams and deranged dreamers makes its own distinct impression.  This book offers a lot of world history to parse through. But writer Danny Lore gets us caught up with shocking ease. While important topics get their focus, Queen of Bad Dreams weaves its exposition throughout the book. Often the book utilizes Viv’s narration to tie together loose worldbuilding threads.

Queen of Bad Dreams is a damn good comic book. It has cannonball momentum and a compassionate beating heart. Blending Sci-Fi procedural with metaphysical existentialism, Queen of Bad Dreams is a new angle on the classic noir experience. Sure, Inspector Judge Daher Wei kicks ass with grace and style. But this book focuses less on smoky shootouts and more on discussions of personal agency and the bonds that bind families together. If you love noir or just love a great comic, Queen of Bad Dreams has what you need.

 

Queen of Bad Dreams
5

TL;DR

Queen of Bad Dreams is a damn good comic book. It has cannonball momentum and a compassionate beating heart.