Indie Comic Review: Shuteye

Shuteye by Sarah Becon – Shortpants Press – 300 pages – $20.00

It would be easy to make a comparison between Sarah Becan’s graphic novel, Shuteye, and Christopher Nolan’s film, Inception; both involve dreamers and multiple levels of dreams. But where Nolan’s film is all about deception, drama, and exceptionally slow camera work, Becan’s comic is about the strange reality that is dreaming and how our dreams affect our waking life.

Each of six short stories, ends with a character falling asleep, only to wake up as the protagonist of the following story, remembering the previous one as nothing more than a dream. It is a clever device as the relationship between the dreamer and the dream is never clear cut. A persone may have a wonderful dream, only to awake in a terrible situation or fall asleep in an never ending circle of a dream, only to awake to do something completely different.

Some of the dreams are fully formed and make a complete story. Other times I found myself trying to will the main character to go back to sleep so the dream could continue! Becan creates unique dreamscapes which take on a life of their own. Each is interesting to visit and explore, and all have their own feeling. Some are wonderful. Some are terrifying. And some are downright strange.

Reading Shuteye was a lot like reading someone else’s journal (or dream journal). I found myself going back and re-reading several of the dreams to make sure that I fully understood what was going on. There is a lot that goes on in these dreams, and some of it gets overlooked if you rush through.

What is even more interesting is that many of these dreams are based on Becan’s own dreams, or conversations about the dreams. Have you ever tried to explain your dreams to someone else?It is amazing to me that Becan was able to convey not only the substance but also the feeling of those dreams and conversations. My favorite part was a conversation she had with her brother where he postulates that she had a dream that was intended for another person. Chew on that one for a minute!

These stories were created over a few years while Becan worked on other projects (Becan is the creator of the Ignatz-nominated webcomic “I Think You’re Sauceome.”) As such, her art style grows and changes over the years. Her early stories are pretty rough, but that adds to the feel of the bok. No dreamscape is the same. Even though all the dreams are rooted in reality, each dream has a look and feel all its own. The changes in art are subtle enough that, like a dream, you are not aware there has been a change until something jumps out at you.

Shuteye is a fun read that may just inspire you to start a dream journal of your own.  Shuteye is available now.  You can orde a print copy or a digital copy.  If you want to try before you buy, you can read the entire first and second chapters for free.

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