Tuesday, October 18, 2022

Graphic Novel: Slumber

Would you trust Stetson to go poking around your subconscious? She is a bit of a loose cannon, but if you are plagued by nightmares, her treatment is lot quicker and more direct than years of psychoanalysis. However, Stetson could use some analysis herself, because she has issues. Sometimes, she acts downright crazy in Tyler Burton Smith’s Slumber (volume one, collecting issues 1-6), illustrated by Vanessa Cardinali, which goes on-sale today.

They have roughly the same jobs, but it is hard to say who is more damaged, Stetson, or Kyoichi Kagenuma, from the Japanese
Nightmare Detective films. When he Kagenuma journeys into nightmares, it is solely to save a tormented client, whereas Stetson is also looking for someone. It turns out the police are also looking for the same someone, they just don’t know it yet.

Valkira is a dream demon, who takes possession of sleeping host bodies to murder people in the waking world. Finch and his colleagues have been investigating a half dozen of her murders, but despite the occult markings she leaves behind, they assume it is the work of a mortal serial killer. Finch should be prepared to accept this fanciful notion, because he is Valkira’s latest host, so Stetson will go into his dreams looking for her, whether he likes it or not.

The premise of
Slumber sounds a lot like Nightmare Detective, but Stetson is a completely different kind of protagonist. She also has a colorful support staff, including Jiang, her companion in nightmare exploration, who has a ghoulish appetite for human flesh.

Being a graphic novel, Cardinali is able to create some eye-popping subconscious dreamscapes. (Yet, nobody has yet to top Salvador Dali’s imagery for Hitchcock’s
Spellbound.) Regardless, Smith builds an intriguing system of rules to govern the dream world and the murderous Valkira is definitely creepy—so much so, releasing the bind-up edition around Halloween certainly makes plenty of marketing sense.

Cardinali’s figures have a lot of appropriately neurotic character and the nightmare visuals are definitely sinister looking. There will clearly be plenty more nightmares for Stetson to exorcise, but the six collected issues tell a full and reasonably self-contained narrative. Easily recommended for fans of nightmare-based horror,
Slumber is now on-sale wherever books and comics are sold.