The government has a machine that lets their agents invade dreams and are willing to kill to keep that secret. That idea has the potential to result in something interesting, but take a wild guess if it does here. Less Inception and more Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master, Rapid Eye takes a little political intrigue, a little sci-fi, a hefty scoop of the broadest clichés of both, and results in a only semi-coherency.
There really isn't much I feel the need to cover with the story. It's another "lone male hero burdened with knowledge of conspiracy," reading a bit like one of those movies you'd rent late at night from Movie Gallery that you'd never heard of before, made up of pieces of other better movies, think Trancers or Parasite. The main takeaway I had with the book is the disconnection between the script, the story, and the comic pages, a kind of uncanny failure to understand how storytelling is organized in sequential format. From an aesthetic standpoint, the book is merely bland, stiff, and 90's-esque, dreadful from an artistic standpoint but not incompetent as what I've come to expect from the indie review folder this Summer (the pastel color work might cross into hideousness, however). Instead, there are a number of panels that stand out as examples of not understanding how paneling and composition communicates action and the relative weight of moments. Part of it is clearly the fault of the writer, this script finds interesting new ways to take a straightforward story and make it difficult to follow, but credit clearly lies with the pencilist for not objecting.
On Page 13, for example, we have one panel where our hero is told, for reasons relevant to the plot, that he is being put on a mandatory leave of absence. This panel is the largest on the page, with both figures equally sized in the space, divided down the middle by the bosses table. The Hero stands at attention, arms at his side, face impassive but not communicating emotion by omission either. He says one sentence in protest: “With all due respect sir, I'd prefer not to” which is summarily dismissed by the next two lines of dialogue. No tension or energy in the composition, nothing in the script to suggest much more than a simple exchange between the characters, and no real reason other than masculine pride to suggest this temporary leave will obstruct any efforts of his that we are aware of.
An office woman hunches over, beefy legs split precariously, ass in the air in lordosis. Papers scatter around her, her face an indignant grimace as she collects them. She says one word, “Asshole!” To the far right, occupying only 1/4th of the panel space, a suited figure turned away from us strides off, face obscured from this position. From his suit and hair we can tell it's The Hero. On reading this panel on it's own, one can figure out the series of events pretty easily. An open door behind the woman is open, suggesting in a fit of distracted anger the man knocked the woman out of place, causing her to drop her paperwork but was too caught up in his frustration to bother apologizing. Legible on its own, but as a sequence of events with the preceding panel it it causes a stutter in the flow of reading. The panel before it, The Hero is drawn impassively. The following panel, we have to deduct contextually what his emotion supposed to be, rather than having it be made obvious by storytelling or depiction of the character. For a split second, the woman being the dominant figure in the panel, I didn't connect the two scenes, the events seeming unrelated.
This takes you out of the story, takes you out of what you are supposed to be feeling, forcing you to focus on trying to figure out basic relationship between images. It's not unlike the sensation you get when a moment of bad editing happens in a film, a sudden unintentional jerk in the narrative, like a record skipping. There are plenty of ways this could be amended. The Hero could have been the dominant figure in the panel, with the scattered secretary visible over his shoulder, giving us a clear view of his visible emotions as well as this symbolic rudeness cliché. The writer could have given us more panels, or at the very least, more dialogue from The Hero, setting up his sense of frustration, making the next panel less jarring of a leap dramatically. Is it nitpicking to lean an entire review so heavily on two panels of a 20+ page comic? Sure. But this is just one example of a multitude of other small choices that made this book far harder to read than it should have been.
Why have a whole panel dedicated to chiding our Big Bad about how he doesn't know how to smoke a cigar? Why do we spend the climactic dream-set action sequence from the perspective of the enemy agents, not our so-called protagonist? Why is the final page "hook" information we already know? Or that page of technobabble "explaining" the technology in the most confused and opaque terminology possible? This book was a constant stop-go, trying to piece together a story that is not that complicated because it's not that smart. I can't tell if it wants to be high-science fiction but doesn't know what that looks like or campy broad Chrononauts high concept pulp and just fails to be fun. It's not the worst thing I've read this year, but it is one of the more methodical demonstrations of how to not do comic storytelling. A temporary curiosity, perhaps, but this is definitely not going to leave a lasting impression on me after a good night's sleep.
[su_box title="Score: 1/5" style="glass" box_color="#8955ab" radius="6"]
Rapid Eye #1 Writers: Bobby Torres, Anthony Rodriguez Artist: Rowel Roque Publisher: Tenacious Comics Price: $3.99