This next comic we review is actually part of the same SpiderForest comic collective we’re part of, and the creator, Heather Meade, is pretty cool. You can tell her I said that ;)
dream*scar (yes, uncapitalized) is an urban fantasy about Unhumans and their place in the modern world. What are Unhumans? They’re just about any classical monster or magical creature you can think of: vampires, werewolves, phoenixes, demons, and so on—anything that’s not a human, that is to say. For centuries, these beings have hidden their presence from the world, but recently, they’ve made themselves known and now the whole world must come to terms with their new reality and how it changes things for everyone…
…at least, that’s the greater scope. The bulk of the story focuses on Vix, an Unhuman girl who spent most of her life hiding her empathic powers. After she accidently causes a fatal accident at her school, she is spirited away to an apartment, separated from her mother and friends. Here, Vix learns the truth of her true parentage and what she might really be capable of, now that she knows what kind of unhuman she really is.
The plot has a bit of a Harry Potter feel, in that Vix is already well-known among members of the unhuman community and seems to be very important to many of them. It’s hinted in various ways that she is meant to serve some kind of cause, but it’s not clear yet what her purpose is. At times, she gets deeply frustrated with the fact that, despite her apparent importance, she is constantly locked out of the loop. It can get tiresome watching a character have crucial information hidden from them or have a reveal cut off mid-sentence just to keep the drama and mystery afloat, and I don’t blame her when she does go rogue and try to find things out for herself. This page pretty much sums up half the conflicts in this comic:
Aside from that, though, the story is interesting to read. There are heartwarming and humorous moments, frightening moments, and plenty of dramatic tension throughout. Even when it gets frustrating that people in the know refuse to tell Vix something, I still found myself enjoying seeing her try to piece it together.
Most of the characters are quirky and likable. The interactions are mainly focused on Vix and the people she meets, but we do get to see some brief hints of how the others relate to each other. I think the relationship I like the most, though, is the one between Vix and her adoptive mother. It’s always refreshing to see a story where an adoptive family is just as close as a “regular” family. Interestingly, we also see Vix slowly develop a closer relationship with her biological mother, even if the two do clash constantly.
The side characters are mostly either comic relief or people who help Vix in some way, but they all have distinct personalities. The antagonists are still mostly in the shadows, though, and so far, their motivation isn’t all that clear. I’d like to know more about them at some point. Right now, all we really know is they want Vix for some reason and have been hunting her for years.
The only character I dislike is Vix’s father. He’s insufferable. Granted, dislike is clearly the intended reaction, but I still grit my teeth every time I have to look at his smug face.
I really can’t find any fault with the dialogue writing. Everyone talks pretty naturally, or at least naturally for their personality. The only character who has wooden dialogue is Rylie, but this is intentional, given that English isn’t her first language. Often, her dialogue manages to be funny purely because of how awkward it sounds.
But I must say, I’m terribly sick of the vagueisms in the comic. When characters are having conversations, they talk pretty much like real people. As soon as a plot point comes up, though, we suddenly get a lot of cryptic talk and mysterious non-hints until the plot is ready to let them spit it out. Just once, I’d like a character to just choke on their words and be speechless, instead of playing plot Scrabble with Vix and leaving her more confused than before.
The lettering is flawless. I like the choice for the standard font, but the comic doesn’t settle for just sticking with the standard. Even from the very beginning, the lettering made a lot of bold choices. The creator knows how to convey tension, volume, and all kinds of different emotions with the lettering. Later chapters abandoned the typical white dialogue bubbles with black outlines for a simpler yellow line-less bubble and dark brown letters. It has a slightly rough hand-drawn look now, but that’s a very good look for this comic.
The art starts out pretty good from page one. The biggest weakness early on was the style being a bit of a generic anime look and the backgrounds having realistic textures that didn’t match the characters. It wasn’t bad, but it could be a little distracting.
Lately, those flaws have been mitigated, if not outright eliminated. In the most recent chapter, the characters still have an animesque look while still having a distinct personal touch to the style, and the style of the backgrounds matches much better. The color scheme of the comic is remarkably warm and luminous. Even cool tones like purple and green have a warmth to them. Much of the comic takes place indoors or at night and the lighting has this prevalent golden tone. It’s very pleasing to look at.
The poses are beyond perfect. The artist has a very strong grip on anatomy and places the characters in a large variety of unusual, dynamic, and casual positions. They don’t just sit or stand still; they lean, stretch, bend, and fidget in interesting poses for no particular reason, as people in real life tend to do. It makes the characters feel more alive and their movements look smooth and relaxed.
The only thing I don’t like about the art is, even with all the improvements over time, it still resorts to cliché anime expressions like this:
The creator could get away with these kinds of expressions early on, when the faces were less detailed and looked more like something out of a shoujo manga. But now, the art clearly shows plenty of capability in making interesting expressions that fit properly on the characters’ faces. There’s no reason to plaster these silly cartoon masks on their faces anymore. But that’s really the only gripe I have. Everything else about the art looks fabulous.
Paneling and Visual Storytelling:
The paneling was top-notch from day one. Every single page made the most of the environments, lighting, angles, and movements, using a lot of different shots and compositions to keep things interesting. It only gets better with time. Many pages have done away with clear-cut panels completely to create a dreamlike atmosphere, or to show the confusion of a character. This page is one of my personal favorite examples of how well the paneling and composition complements the mood of the page.
I couldn’t think of a better way to do this if I tried.
The website design is simple and very nicely organized. There are ads on the page, but they’re kept to the right sidebar, right underneath the social media links. Since English readers focus on the left side of the page first, this is a great idea. Many webcomic creators need ads to pay for their site and so forth, but it’s hard to keep the ads from becoming a distraction. Placing the ads neatly on the right prevents them from intruding on the main focus, the page.
The site has a fully-developed cast page, including some interesting background information about the setting. It’s up-to-date and interesting without being too spoiler-y. The only problem with the site is the Forum link appears to be broken. I’m not sure why this is or how it can be fixed. If the forum is defunct, I would suggest just getting rid of that link.
This is one of the better urban fantasy comics out there. I definitely recommend it to anybody who likes reading about classical monsters in a modern setting. The art is gorgeous and the main character’s interactions with her new world are engrossing, putting the reader in her shoes and she tries to make sense of things.