That was just a dream
Just a dream, dream…
—R.E.M., “Losing My Religion”
R.E.M. (the title referring to the dream stage of sleep, not the band) is a new graphic novel from Spoke Lane Entertainment, owned by Ryan Colucci. Mr. Colucci is both a writer and a film producer, and is currently involved in a project with Warner Brothers to work on movie versions of Terry Brooks’ Shannara fantasy series, which we would love to see happen. R.E.M. itself is an independent project, crowdfunded through Kickstarter, and it is a great example of the wonderful, creative works that can be produced through these unorthodox sources of capital.
The novel is about an intensely brilliant neuroscientist, Michael, who is suffering from the recent loss of his companion, Eva to complications related to mental illness. Michael believes that her death was partly due to insomnia, and is obsessed with creating a device, based on the principle of yoga, to replace an entire night’s sleep with a brief, 30-minute refresh. He has been running “two-legged rat experiments” of the device on himself and, as such, has not slept normally since Eva’s death.
As the invention nears completion and the boundaries between sleep and waking blur, Michael’s world disintegrates into a Morphean nightmare of pursuit by various military, industrial, and religious groups all seeking the technology for their own, slightly tainted, ends. His obsessive desire to reduce Eva’s tragedy to a simple, solvable heuristic, i.e. lack of sleep, ultimately drives him to abandon all his living connections with friends and family.
The artwork is done by an acutely talented freelance artist from Hungary, Zsombor Huszka. While I normally miss color in a black-and-white offering, R.E.M. is a notable exception. The story itself doesn’t call for it but, more to the point, the visual impact of the art is complete without it. Huszka makes deft use of a blend of positive and reversed black-on-white negative images to divide the action and characters and draw the eye through the story. And a few of the full-page dream images of Eva are more than worthy of a frame by themselves. I would very much welcome a future collaboration between Huszka and Colucci, to produce another graphic novel of, perhaps, the back story of Michael and Eva.
The sum total of the well-crafted story and stunning artwork of R.E.M. is a reminder of how far comic books have evolved beyond kid’s entertainment to become a serious creative genre. I personally have a strong preference for media that I can consume at my own chosen pace, which is not the case for television and movies. I am therefore highly appreciative of the role today’s comic books serve in providing a bridge between the gap of literature and the visual arts of painting and drawing.