Have you ever sat and listened to someone try and tell you their dream? Of course you have. No matter how interesting or crazy the dream is, there’s always a disconnect. You’re always just out of reach of the experience, because it’s not your dream. At its best, reading a comic book is like living in someone else’s dream, usually a handful of people. You’re sent on a journey, experience the adrenaline, and feel the feels. There is a tangible intersection, a crossroads of the conscious and subconscious.
Jason Latour and Ivan Brandon’s Black Cloud has an interesting premise that may not be exactly clear to someone who simply picks up and reads the first issue without getting a brief synopsis first. Zelda Barrett has the keys to a dream world, a place where people who believed so strongly in the stories in their heads that they became real for them. Now, living out a life of almost squalor in the real world, she gets people to pay her to take them to the dream world. That’s all you need to know right now. When I read the synopsis, I got really excited. I’m a fan of Jason Latour’s (who provides the story with Ivan Brandon) run on Spider Gwen. What could easily be simple gimmicks instead embraces good, solid character work and storytelling. I’m not as familiar with Ivan Brandon’s work (providing the script here), who has several other Image and DC titles under his belt.
Black Cloud, in its first issue, underperforms. Instead of living out this dream with Latour and Brandon, the book feels like they are simply telling us about this cool dream they had. Instead of feeling like a story, it feels like the synopsis of a story. Instead of getting to know Zelda, we’re just told about her situation. Zelda spends the entire time in voice-over, telling us everything we should be experiencing. Instead of watching her react through interaction and dialogue, we get a sports announcer’s commentary. Because she’s telling us everything, there’s no mystery – there’s no unfolding. Any bits and pieces of story feel like something they are unconcerned with for the moment, that maybe we’ll get to it being part of a dramatic through line in the next issue.
I like Greg Hinkle’s art; his work on Airboy last year was stellar. That was a comic I felt he went for broke from the first panel; here, I feel him holding back. It’s a dream world, and it feels very subdued. I would put forth the argument of why show your hand right away, but that’s actually what I want! Matt Kindt’s current Ether throws you into the deep end immediately, and you are covered in it and there’s still more to discover. This is a dream world; let us live that dream with Zelda.
And maybe I’m being too hard on it, but reading Spider Gwen, I know what Latour is capable of and that’s the level I want to see this working at. That being said, it’s still an interesting premise, one I hope blossoms in its second and third issue. So, I’ll be back for more, and, hopefully, if it lives up to its premise and the talent involved, a heck of a lot more.