Grounding a Bonkers Concept in Faith Dreamside 2

by Patrick Ehlers

This article contains SPOILERS. If you haven’t read the issue yet, proceed at your own risk!

The concept of shared superhero universes may have dulled readers to the fact that religious parables and alien invasion stories and time travel puzzle boxes are wildly different kinds of narratives. What is an Avengers comic, but a hyper-active mash-up of as many different genres as there are heroes on the team? But you’ll notice that none of these stories really deal with the gravity that should come with these sky-high concepts crossing paths. Faith Dreamside 2 finds both Faith and Doctor Mirage struggling to reconcile their extremely worldly views of the universe with the new reality plaguing Animalia.

The issue starts off with Faith and Monica seeking help, which is a good first step in acknowledging that Zephyr is ill-equipped to deal with the situation. Monica is beset nightly by ghosts, so they naturally reach out to para-psychologist Doctor Mirage. But Dr. Mirage isn’t even offered her normal, comfortable, setting – instead she’s being interviewed on a talkshow to promote her new ghost-related show. It’s complicated and artificial and weird. Every part of Doctor Mirage’s experience on the lot suggests that she doesn’t belong there: there’s the forced laughter at joke she’s heard a thousand times and she stumbles over comparing her ghost-husband to bacteria. Even the way she nonchalantly tells her driver she’s talking to her husband’s ghost reveals that she’s just not in her element.

It’s only page three and writer Jody Houser has already absolutely filled the issue with a sense of non-belonging. As the story unfolds from here, and our super heroes team up, the action slows way down. Instead of exploding into whatever madness awaits us when Monica’s ghosts visit her, the assembled superheroes try to piece together the whole story from what little bits of knowledge they have. And it sure seems like they’ve got a lot of bases covered, right? Faith keeps dropping allusions to her previous adventures traveling through time, fighting reality-rearranging robots, being framed by shape-shifting aliens, and the like. For her part, Doctor Mirage presents and totally separate, yet no less incomplete, knowledge base.

Which is what makes it so terrifying when things eventually go south. Monica’s spirits aren’t like anything Doctor Mirage has seen before, and artist MJ Kim and letterer Dave Sharpe honor that horrific novelty by showing the reader something we haven’t seen before.

This is not how Kim has been drawing ghosts for the last 17 pages! And Sharpe warps those speech balloons, and lets those extra SSSSSes stretch the hell out of them. It’s also the first time we get to see Doctor Mirage out of the superhero-y costume she wore on TV. Absent those long sleeves, we see there’s more underneath – some cool looking tatts.

The deeper into this series we go, the more the creative team makes us aware of how little we understood in the first place. Houser and Kim are giving both the reader and the characters an opportunity to adjust to those revelations. That goes a long way towards grounding a totally bonkers concept like this one.

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