The Dreaming

Review covers the full series

There seems to be some kind of an art behind making a good mystery. You need to start building up at just the right rate, slowly letting more of the details come into the light yet at the same time revealing more mystery. If you want to read a comic where this has been done right, then The Dreaming is a good candidate.

The Dreaming takes place in a haunted mansion, alone in the middle a large Australian forest. A good place to set a horror comic, you'd think. With no exit easily available, the main cast would have to stay and face whatever undead horrors were attacking them. Unless of course they wanted to head into the dense forest, which is usually a death-sentence in the horror genre. All it would take would be for the phone-line to be cut and it would be a perfect cliche.

I'm sure you're expecting me to mention some kind of twist now, as what I've described so far is way too cliche and not worthy of the score you've probably already noticed to the right of the page. And yes, there's a twist. However the twist is the time-frame.

Rather than be set over one evening, the events in The Dreaming take place over a few months. The mansion is actually a girl's boarding school, and rather than simply being stuck there for a night, the two main protagonists have to keep attending the school as they have nowhere else to go.

The switch to a larger time-scale than usual is quite interesting as we get to see the protagonists outlook change over a longer period of time, and we also see how the mood in the school as a whole changes. And generally the mood gets more worrisome with time, as the people for whom departing is an option go, leaving just the people who have no real option other than to be there and face things.

Ah yes, things. The Dreaming hides what is happening from both the protagonists and the reader right until the end, so to start with all either know is that people are disappearing. As the story goes on the mystery slowly gets unravelled, with just the right amount of danger, red herrings and revelations to get the readers heart pumping.

My only complain with the Comic is how it deals with the ending. It seems obvious that the ending of the series means that the mystery also needs to be answered. The problem is that once everything is known, The Dreaming loses all of it's mystic and it's fear, which were the things that made it good. We're kind of used to ghosts/ghouls/vampires/zombies in comics by now, so ghosts/ghouls/vampires/zombies on their own don't really cut it. This may sound like an odd thing to say, but the series as a whole might have been a bit better if some things were left unexplained.

Another sign of a slightly forced ending is that after the main cast are done being thoroughly scared, by one means or another things end up resolving themselves. Also, the last volume really went out of it's way to stop events unfolding any more, and to sit down and explain them all. While their character shields were not that obvious, it did break my immersion a little when I realised that the main characters' only job was to just witness things and be scared.

Anyway, while The Dreaming may suffer from a few horror cliches and is not 100% perfect, it also has interesting story and very good pacing. I'd recommend checking it out.