I’d heard very good things about The Dreamer from some fellow historians, but I’d never gotten around to reading it until this week, when Volume 3 (collecting issues 13-17 of the webcomic) crossed my laptop. For those who haven’t been reading the series, it’s about a high school senior, Bea Whaley, who begins having dreams about the Revolutionary War; dreams in which she is an active participant in eighteenth century life, meeting such notables as Alexander Hamilton, Nathan Hale, and George Washington. She believes these dreams to be real, and by the time we reach Volume 3, she’s spending a lot of her waking life thinking about the people from her dreams, particularly a handsome major in the Continental Army, Alan Warren.
Jumping in at issue 13 of an arc is a little rough. Bea’s story was already well under way, and Alan was close to death at the start of the issue—who the hell were these people? Frequent flashbacks to Alan’s past added to my initial confusion. But within about five pages, I was intrigued. Although as Bea’s friend Yvette says, “they’re all already dead,” I was completely sucked into their story by the end of the first issue I read. And by the end of issue sixteen, I was downright moved by the events happening on the page. I knew the majority of the historical figures in the comic because of the time I’ve spent researching the Revolution, but Lora Innes, who writes and draws The Dreamer, has a gift for making people who have been dead for centuries live and breathe again. What’s more, she makes her readers care deeply about them, which is no small feat! The strong script and the great images (which for some reason remind me of a more grown-up Liberty’s Kids, in the best of ways) are equally responsible for the comic’s appeal. I love that Innes does both the writing and drawing for the series, because I know that this is how she imagined her story would look from start to finish, down to Bea’s dreams and her daily reality being drawn in the same style. This is a subtle but important touch, making it clear that both worlds are equally real to her.
On the comic’s website, Innes says that the “American Revolution and all the amazing people who suffered, struggled, and sacrificed to make it happen have gotten under my skin” and adds that the characters “have become dear friends of mine.” That The Dreamer is her self-described “soul project” comes across in every panel of every page. This book is a definite labor of love, and in the course of the five issues I read I’ve come to love it as well. The series is a good read, period, but I also think that there’s tremendous potential to use it as a teaching tool. It would be a great way for American history teachers in junior high and high school to really get their students engaged in a time period that can seem very dull and distant from 2014.
The Dreamer is awesome enough that I just ordered the first two volumes in trade paperbacks and will definitely be doing the same with the third volume when it’s released on Wednesday—something that as a Brooklyn apartment-dweller with limited space, I’m only doing with my very favorite books. The only thing that could make it better for me is if Ben Franklin** turned up in a future issue, but even without that The Dreamer, vol. 3 gets 5 out of 5 Lightning Bolts from me.
And now, the preview!
THE DREAMER, Vol. 3
Writer/Artist: Lora Innes
On-Sale Date: March 19, 2014
Diamond ID: JAN140516
** Authors Note: I’ve since made my way through Vol. 1 and 2 and have apologized to Lora–Ben Franklin (and John Adams!) appear in Vol. 2. This comic really does have it all! – Julie