Comic Reviews

Review: Bad Dream: A Dreamer Story

In this review of Bad Dream: A Dreamer Story, Nia, the teenage trans daughter of the Naltorean seer wants to be a normal girl. She however learns that she inherited the power of precognition over her older cis gender sister. How is this possible and what does it mean for her and her family?

 

Bad Dream: A Dreamer Story main cover
Bad Dream: A Dreamer Story main cover by Rye Hickman (Images courtesy of DC Comics)

Bad Dream: A Dreamer Story
Writer: Nicole Maines
Artist: Rye Hickman
Color Artist: Bex Glendining
Release Date: April 2, 2024

 

This review contains spoilers

 

Bad Dream: A Dreamer Story — Part 1

Bad Dream: A Dreamer Story begins as Nia wakes from a dream of a battle on an alien world. She has no idea what this means and she is soon joined by her sister Maeve. Maeve and her go to a kickball game. We learn that the two girls are half alien, their mother is from a planet Naltor known for its superhero team of precogs which her mother was one, and a human father. Maeve being the eldest is being trained to be the next generational member of the precogs. She has yet to exhibit the power but it has to be her because we later learn that Nia is trans gender. She was assigned male at birth and transitioned to a female.

The family settled down in Parthas. It is a small village that is safe for aliens. It is populated by aliens from all planets including their human allies. Nia despite being an alien among aliens, finds herself awkward with her peers. This is shown by getting kicked in the face with the kickball. Maeve, embarrassed, takes her sister back home for care.

It is here that we find that Nia’s mother is training Maeve to be the next seer. Maeve has no inclination that she will be the inheritor of the power but she has been having strange dreams when she sleeps. Since she has not had any training, she does not understand what they could mean but she fears that somehow she has the power and not Maeve. Maeve however is getting frustrated that she has not shown the power.

Later Nia overhears Maeve talking with her parents about her. Nia ruins everything for Maeve and she does not want to be told to take her anywhere. The girls mother urges them to go for ice cream.

The girls talk when Nia shows Maeve the superhero suit she has been designing for her. Maeve loves it. The conversation shifts to the possibility that Maeve is future blind. Maeve gets upset but the conversation calms down.

Later that night, Nia has another dream. She wakes up in a panic and decides to run away from home. She boards a bus headed for Metropolis.

 

Part 2

In Metropolis, Nia tries to adjust. At first she is excited and decides to get something to eat. She is interrupted by her mom calling her on her cell, she ignores the call. Throughout we see another white haired woman in the same area as Nia.

She travels all over Metropolis trying not to go to sleep. If she does not fall asleep, she cannot dream. She goes to movies and eats popcorn but whenever she drifts off she has the dream. She eventually finds a homeless man who wants her. She runs from the guy and he chases her. She is stopped by a chain link fence. She starts to climb and the man grabs her pant leg and shifts his grip to her ankle and starts to yank. Terrified, she emits an electrical pulse from her hand that hits the man in the face and propels her over the fence. She runs into a convenience store with a logo she has seen in her dream. She goes to the back to sit and think.

Soon three girls enter, one is an alien and the other two are humans and one is even trans. The three go to the counter with their purchases. The man behind the counter is a bigot and orders the three to leave.. The alien, Galaxy activates her powers. To diffuse the situation, Nia pushes a refrigerator dumping its contents on the floor. All four girls escape and Nia takes a package of sushi.

The four talk outside. They urge Nia not to eat the sushi. Nia admits that she is a trans alien which leads to some distrustful words. Taylor, Galaxy introduces herself and then she introduces her girlfriend Kat and their friend Katherine. Taylor introduces Nia to Argus, her “dog”. Taylor asks if she has powers and Nia denies it.

The four go for a walk. They are on their way to a dance and talent show conducted in the queer part of town, A-Town. Katherine discovers that Nia needs a place to stay.

Nia finds a place where aliens, queers and others all live in harmony with each other. She has found her people. Katherine introduces her to Bea Turner. She runs the show but she also runs a co-op where the queer people have a safe place to stay provided they pitch in for the benefit of the community. Bea actually becomes a mother figure to these people. Nia without understanding any of this makes Katherine angry when Nia says that Bea is not really their mother. Bea steps in and Taylor comforts Nia. Katherine goes off to prepare for the show while others go to find seats. The girls marvel at the show and Nia finds a friend in Taylor. Nia has finally found a place to be wholly herself.

Nia becomes more comfortable with her new friends and starts to tell them about Parthas and how it is different from A-Town. In the conversation Argus finally reveals that he is really not a dog but a Cyandii surveillance unit. It is further revealed that Taylor is a princess. Taylor then tells Nia her story and how she is in danger of being attacked by enemies. She is in training to become a superhero.

 

Part 3

Nia is sleeping and again she has her nightmare. When she wakes up she has a power discharge from her body. This awakens Katherine. Katherine comforts the girl and helps her through her panic attack, teaching her how to breathe and offering her some soothing tea. Katherine tells Nia that she is safe and after a heart to heart conversation where Nia describes the powers she is experiencing. Nia is left alone and she sees something on the roof.

On climbing up to the roof, Nia meets Sybyll, another of the seers. The seer tells Nia that her mother broke her vow and deserted her homeworld. Sybyll then tells the girl that she is chosen to be the next protector. Nia refutes this and tells her that she is trans. She cannot inherit the power because she is not female. Sybyll tells Nia that she can give Maeve the powers because she apparently has the power to redirect dreams. Nia returns to the others and tells them that she has to return home to give Maeve the powers. The girls try to convince her to stay but then Taylor offers to drive Nia home with them.

The four arrive at Parthas. Maeve is visibly angry and Nia’s mother hugs her. Nia just says that she is sorry. Maeve does not return Nia’s hug.

Taylor identifies the women as Naltorian. Taylor’s people the Cyandii were abandoned by the Naltorians. Taylor blames the loss of her home and her family to the inaction of the Naltorians as personified by Nia’s mother. Maeve jumps to her mother’s defense and all decide to go inside.

Nia’s mother then tells everyone the true reason she left. She started having dreams predicting her life on Earth, a life of peace and love. It is here that Nia tells everyone with Katherine’s support that she has powers. This infuriates Maeve and Nia says that she can give Maeve the powers. She then tells them about Sybyll. This terrifies her mother, Sybyll must have followed Nia to find her. In the stress, Nia collapses. In her dream, Nia’s mother talks to her and apologizes to her for making her feel that she is not enough. She tells her daughter that she foresaw her daughter having greater powers and leaves. The Naltorian women start to fight. This awakens Nia.

 

 

She finds the other barricading the door. They were told to keep Nia in the house. Taylor finally tells Nia that her mother is outside. Nia runs to her and finds her dead at the hands of Sybyll. Taylor immediately attacks Sybyll, who deflects the girl. Leaving Nia to face off with Sybyll. Nia declares that the powers are hers and in the fight Sybyll vanishes leaving the mother dead and the others wounded.

 

Epilogue

After the funeral, Maeve disappears and Nia decides to stay with her now widowed father. She maintains her relationship with Taylor, Kat, and Katherine and grows to become Dreamer.

 

Analysis

The artwork in Bad Dream: A Dreamer Story is beautiful. It is stylized but it is evident that Hickman had a blast designing the aliens we see throughout this story. Taylor and Kat, who are not original characters, are drawn on point based on their appearance in the Galaxy, the Prettiest Star story. This story takes place between this and the Hawkgirl miniseries where we last saw Galaxy.

The writer Bad Dream: A Dreamer Story, Nicole Maines, is the actress who portrayed Deamer in the WB’s Arrow verse TV shows. Maines is herself a trans activist/actor and she portrays Nia as the first trans superhero in those shows.

At first in the story it was never alluded that Nia is trans. Maines first introduces us to Nia as an alien hybrid. We do not learn that Nia is trans until the meeting with Taylor and her friends. It was seeing Katherine and identifying with her because she could see that she was trans. Discovering Taylor as a trans alien also gave Nia somebody to relate to. Despite all that, she was still very unsure about completely telling them everything.

The main issue of the powers in Bad Dream: A Dreamer Story is interesting. Despite everything the girl has been through, she never understands seeing herself as female. The Naltorian powers are passed down to one female in the next generation. Since the mother has the power, it was assumed that Maeve would be the inheritor because she was assigned the gender of female at birth. What is missed by Nia as well as the others is that Nia is female. Just because she was assigned a male at birth it does not negate that she is really female. Trans women are women and that is beautifully explored here. Nia accepts her powers and perhaps her own gender the first time in this story and that makes a beautiful story of self discovery.

In the end she forms a solid friend group of people who accept and love her. It is really never shown but I believe her father also loves and accepts her for who she is, after all he fell in love with an alien.

The sad part is the reaction of Maeve. I believe that she does love her sister despite her being awkward but that love becomes resentment and jealousy when she finds out Nia has the power and not her. As a result she does not help either Nia or her mother against Sybyll and she even leaves after the funeral. This is reality for some trans people. Sometimes the closest people become estranged because of their own emotions when they are confronted with a loved one who is different. In this case it is jealousy rearing its ugly head.

 

Final Thoughts

Bad Dream: A Dreamer Story is a beautiful book to read both in art and story. It makes me want to do a deep dive into this character of Dreamer who has a connection with the Legion of Superheroes. She has been called an ancestor to Dream Girl, a member of the Legion.

 

DC Comics provided The Comic Book Spot with a review copy of Bad Dream: A Dreamer Story. If you enjoyed this review, you can find more reviews here. If you would like to buy a copy of this title, and help support the Comic Book Spot at the same time, consider purchasing this book at Amazon

Bad Dream: A Dreamer Story main cover
Bad Dream: A Dreamer Story OGN
Final Thoughts
This is a beautiful book to read both in art and story. It makes me want to do a deep dive into this character of Dreamer who has a connection with the Legion of Superheroes. She has been called an ancestor to Dream Girl, a member of the Legion.
Story
Art
Colors
4.8
Overall Score
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