Shuteye #1-3 (Short Pants Press)

shuteyeheaderIntrospective journeys into dream-like realities that don't quite add up.

 

 

25, 37, and 51 pgs. B&W; $4.00

(W / A: Sarah Becan)

 

 

Adapted from short stories by her brother David Becan, Sarah Becan's Shuteye series depicts a collision of dreams and reality in three sets of seemingly unrelated characters-a Catalan who deserts his exploration team, a man remaking his past, and a couple reaffirming their relationship. Linked in a daisy chain fashion, the stories all bleed into each other by way of shared characters, each one dreaming the bits of the previous volume's events. However, not always are the stories clear, and not always do these disparate portraits of humanity add up.

 

The first issue, Veá, reveals the story of the title character, a Catalan who deserts his company of explorers in the Banda Oriental only to become a dreamy figure in their imaginations. Veá encounters a strange Indian tribe that feeds, clothes, and shelters him in an environment where time becomes fluid and mixes in a strange pool of love, friendship, and war. Mythologized, Veá becomes a symbol of hope that drives the explorers onward when diminishing supplies, hunger, and fatigue become too much to bear.

 

Issue #2, The Liar, transplants the Veá figure from volume one into a cityscape where a foggy tale of lies turns out to have a grim truth. As the Veá character "Jack" unfolds a tale of hit and run drunkenness, readers will find surprise in the bartender's guilt and "Jack's" innocence in a strange sort of confusion that seems to work with the swirly storytelling that goes on in these volumes.

 

The latest installment, Night and Day, moves the hit and run victim into one-half of a young couple escaping the pressures of an unsupportive family through a campout in the woods. As the two travel, the couple stumbles upon an isolated house that pulls them in and out of sleep. Sarah Becan, who wrote this story solo, paints a strangely idyllic setting in the couple's seemingly endless cycle of sleep and waking. The couple knows they can't avoid the conflict forever, but at the same time they give in to sleep.

 

The artwork has its own dreamy, unformed qualities, unfinished lines meeting soft details and smooth edges. Becan handles the dream transitions surprisingly well, even if the entire picture has not quite solidified; readers at least have enough to follow in order to make some slight connections. The minimalist drawings add a certain childlike charm to each of the volumes and dampen some of the more horrifying moments.

 

Overall the pieces of this puzzle fit together in simple ways, yet the stories are still enjoyable. They depict pain and exploration and love in ways that are no doubt interconnected, and if Becan can figure out how to make these connections work, she could have a truly satisfying read. As it stands, when broken up like this, the larger story seems a bit lost. | James Nokes

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