Alex Haas, of the late great Indy Comic Review website, comes out of retirement to share his thoughts on Dreamkeepers Volume 3! Special thanks to Alex for taking the time for this!
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Back in the mid “aughts” (2006 or so, if memory serves), I got caught up in the excitement of a new
series called Dreamkeepers when Dave Lillie submitted a copy its first volume for review via a relatively
new IndyComicReview.com. I got to cut my teeth as the newest reviewer on what turned out to be one
of the few genuinely gripping submissions we received and certainly one of the first to knock me out of
my chair. This isn’t to reinforce the trope that indie signals a bad offering, but as with most things, the
genuinely amazing material is both rare and quick to demand your attention. To stand out, a story and/
or its presentation need to offer something the reader hasn’t seen or heard before, at least not in that
configuration. That’s where Dreamkeepers shines and has done since its inception.
Last year saw the release of the third volume in the series, now being worked on by Dave and his wife,
Liz, who has been on board “full time” since Volume 2. If nothing else, it’s a cause for celebration like an
old friend coming to town unexpectedly. Yes, good times will be had.
For those who haven’t read it, I can’t say much about the prior volumes without spoiling some very
carefully and creatively built-up twists and reveals. I will say to anyone put off by the art style that it
well surpasses any other comic that plies the “humanoid animals with big eyes” trade and, in some
ways, the art style serves to strikingly offset what can be, at times, an exceedingly ugly story. This
isn’t the kind of ugly that a story relying strictly on unredeemable characters flaunts. We like these
characters and the writing works very hard to ensure that, for every rough edge they possess, they’re
still kids and likeable kids at that. Unfortunately, the world of Dreamkeepers being what it is, bad things
happen to good people… Sometimes a bit much. If there is karma in the DK universe, I suspect Mace,
Whip, Lillith and Namah were pretty awful in a past life or three (certainly Mace and Namah – but I
suspect she would embrace that).
As a sucker for art that pairs the ugly with the beautiful, I was sold from the start. In seriousness, the
comic succeeds both because of its art, which is incredibly detailed and well crafted, and because the art
is almost inappropriate to the tone of the story.
The first two installments in the series set the action rolling well enough and give us plenty of time
to attach ourselves to these characters. The writing centers on the kids and has always had a very
light touch while still managing to staple our attention to them. We want them to be ok in spite of
everything going on around them.
Riding through these opening chapters, there is a sense that we are as in the dark about what is really
happening as the children. As a result, the world around them comes across like a blur that never stops
moving long enough for us to focus in on anything.
By the time we get to Volume 3, everything that has come before seems like an appetizer. The action
is constant, but now feels more full and substantial. Events are moving forward, even if we still can’t
see what they’re building to. We know it’s big and potentially very bad. The characters we’ve been
introduced to thus far still feel familiar and now, more than ever, the concern that some of them may
not make it to the next book depending on what comes via the next page.
The world also comes into its own here in a big way. Funny enough, there’s no major change in the way
the story is being delivered. There are no extended four page monologues that could have been read
by Morgan Freeman or Laurence Fishburne. Somehow, Dave and Liz have managed to write a story
that pauses as little as possible for exposition while still giving us as readers just enough information to
nod sagely and offer the odd, “Oh, so that’s what that thing was doing there. Gotcha.” Seriously, these
two should write a how-to guide on writing stories that are as lean as they can possibly be while still
connecting with the audience. Hollywood, novelists and aspiring comic creators would do well to take
There’s still a bit too much happening to gather a complete picture of the world of the Dreamkeepers,
but now, through two prior volumes and the bits of extra “world exposition” present at the end of each
volume, it is starting to feel like it is a lived-in place. Granted, it’s lived-in by characters that are rather
insulated from the reality OUR characters have to face.
If I had a complaint in earlier books, it was the sense that the characters and the world they lived in
were two separate entities that did not connect and this book addresses that in one dismissive sweep of
the literary hand.
I can’t escape the feeling that this series is unfolding the way any great artist or musician’s career
does. When you see the early works, you see promise and a lot of raw talent, but only the outline of
it. It’s only when you advance through their material that you see that talent take shape, take aim and
ultimately take off. For as good as the series has been thus far, with a massive leap forward like that
seen in the chapters of Volume 3, I’m convinced that the best is yet to come.
Check out the series. Absorb the early installments and end up impatiently anticipating the arrival of
the next. Above all, be sure to support this project, because it stands without competition. Simply put,
nobody else is covering this territory and, even if they were, they’d be hard-pressed to do it this well.