The idea that there something magical just beyond our understanding and outside our rather drab and often cruel reality is a compelling one.
After all, who hasn’t wondered, when faced with the drudgery and exhaustion of another day in a world full of disappointment and sadness whether there isn’t something else far better lying just beyond reach.
This reviewer certainly did during the bullying-blighted years of primary and high school, and so does the titular protagonist of Lucy Dreaming, a superbly well-realised comic book series, now gathered into brightly yellow trade paper collection, which reveals that somewhere in our dreams lurks a very real place and time known as The Storyscape, from which all our stories derive.
In other words, according to the mouse-shaped guardian of The Storyscape, to which Lucy has almost exclusive access thanks to some off-the-charts experimenting by her scientist parents when she was in utero, all of our narrative spring forth from actual people and creatures engaged in all kinds of titanic battles between good and evil.
It’s a wondrous concept, and after Lucy wraps her discontented 13-year-old head around the fact that her life is far more extraordinary than the banal limits of her high school existence might suggest, she dives into this world with uncharacteristic abandon, her reluctant apathy – she admits at one point that she wants to be more into life than she is, and would be happy to embrace the world of the cool kids if only she knew how – cast to one side as she discovers how much power she has as an emerging woman.
It’s revelatory but as with any great gift, it comes with its costs and dark sides.
Quite what they are best left to the telling by writer Max Bemis and artist Michael Dialynas, but suffice to say that while Lucy emerges at the other end of her epic journeys through The Storyscape a wholly changed and different person, with a new perspective on life and a more sober though energised understanding of how the world works.
The idea of there being some magical storytelling hiding behind the tax returns and high school hell of our world isn’t new – see The Neverending Story for just one example – but it’s what Bemis and Dialynas do with it that is so impressively beguiling.
They deftly bring fantasy into Lucy’s very ho-hum humdrum life and introduce it in such a way that Lucy’s reaction to her gift is quite believable considering just how off-the-wall amazing it is.
Then once Lucy has made her peace with the fact that her life and her understanding of the greater, more fantastical shape of reality has changed forever, Dialynas brings her life and that of The Storyscape to gloriously spectacular, technicolour in ways that suggest vibrancy, action and a place of endless possibilities, good and bad.
It’s so vivaciously, energetically realised that you can’t help but want to dive straight into a magical reality that is everything you have ever wanted and which is connected to our world, and Lucy’s life, in ways so astonishingly imaginative that you will be glad that Bemis and Dialynas gave themselves over to their own story with such passion and excitable intent.
One particular fun feature, among the many things to like about this series is the meta, knowing way in which all the grand, epic adventures into which Lucy is plunged while asleep – to be clear, she is not dreaming but actually in The Storyscape where death, injury and emotional pain are all quite real possibilities – unfold.
The self-references and self-aware narratives are gloriously good, as is the overly detailed exposition, so good in fact that even in the midst of very serious, intense battles, with massive things at stake, you will laugh at the sheer hilariously-executed cleverness of it all.
Lucy Dreaming is a gem – a storytelling triumph that is proof positive, if ever we needed it, that comic books are an endlessly clever and malleable artform, capable of telling the most amazing, engaging stories and helping all of us come to appreciate that while life might seem excessively bland and limited, it can be magically beyond measure if you know where to look, and more importantly, where to go.