Saturday, March 15, 2008

Caffeine Dreams #1 & #2 - A Review

Caffeine Dreams #1 & #2 were sent to us by DWAP productions and they asked us to review the books.

DWAP Productions
And also check out the Antidote Trust ( as DWAP is involved with that comic book and entertainment collective

Jim: As with all anthologies the strength and weakness lies in the fact that you have stories that may or may not appeal to you. The hit or miss ratio is all important.
Lee: I couldn’t agree more that anthology titles are a really tricky thing. One on hand they are a great way to experiment with style and content in a short format. On the other it is really hard to make three good stories all at once. Caffeine Dreams is a new comic that is a typical hit and miss anthology title. When I liked it, I really liked it but when I didn’t… oooohhh did I not like it.

Issue #1
Story 1: Big Ships – Story Dale Wilson, Art Todd Harris
Story 2: On Becoming a Monster – Story Dale Wilson, Art Chris Sagovac
Story 3: Monarch Kingdom – Story Dale Wilson, Art Nick Kunin

Jim: The book is called Caffeine Dreams, but I guess LSD Trips would not sell as well.
Lee: I don’t know. A title chance couldn’t hurt any. Overall, these are a collection of what I call “thinking man’s horror” stories. There isn’t a monster, per se, or really spooky stuff in general. The “horror” of the situation is far more subtle.

Jim: The first story Big Ships is excellent. The art work is a realistic style that was most likely shot directly from the pencils. The story itself was a cool little tale about one person passing his “madness” onto a young couple.
Lee: The art was definitely shot from pencils, and while it looks nice, I think the story would have been better served with some inks. The art was the best of the issue with some pretty good layouts and figure work but unfinished nature of it distracted me. The story was fine but my expectations for overt gore interfered with my initial read. Once I realized the book wasn’t going to have a big monster at the end, this story became better.

Jim: On Becoming a Monster the art is almost impressionistic. I found the story to be hard to follow because of that and the book was not well laid out. I have read impressionistic styles before and can still follow the layouts; this was missing strength in story telling on a couple levels. The story itself felt weaker also. It felt like the prologue to a story as opposed to a story.
Lee: I was looking for the right word and “impressionistic” is just about ideal. The art is composed of heavy blacks contrasted with stark whites. It’s visually stunning and very effective in places. Unfortunately, it breaks down into a bunch of mud and smears in other places. I like what was attempted but the layouts have got to be perfect to make it all work. They weren’t and it was very hard to understand what is going on in places. The dialogue really carries the story and it was effective but it felt like setup instead of short story.

Jim: Monarch Kingdom was my favorite and again we have a radical shift in art styles as this had a cartoon like look. The actual story was amusing as we see the main character almost become absorbed into a video game. You are not sure if his world is changing or his view of it.
Lee: The art was definitely the animated style and it worked well. There were some spots where it seemed flat but for the most part it worked well. This was the most straightforward of all three stories.

Issue #2
Story 1: To Rule in Hell – Story Mark Allen Stewart, Art Chris Sagovac
Story 2: The Tradition – Story/Art – Todd Harris, Dialogue Geoffrey Thorne
Story 3: The Assassination – Story Dale Wilson, Art – Mulele Jarvis

Jim: To Rule in Hell was more of a prose story with illustration and truth be know I only skimmed read it as I found the font size and color too difficult for a close reading. What I got from the story was a nice idea and the artwork conveyed the idea well enough.
Lee: This is an interesting book because it has the same creators from issue one but they are trying new things. In this case, the story is more typical horror, if slightly generic in content. The story is well executed and I enjoyed it. The art was a real surprise because . Sagovac is the same artist from “On Becoming a Monster” from Issue #1. And he uses a completely different style. Where as “Monster” was impressionistic, this is straightforward comic book panel art. The layouts were good but Sagovac’s anatomy needs works. There were points when the figures seemed either flat or out of proportion.

Jim: The Tradition was a series of pin-ups with a short little story to tie it together. Neither good or bad it really was just there.
Lee: I agree. This was a series of splashes with text boxes to fill in the story. I was more interested to see Todd Harris on art chores again. He did the first un-inked story in Issue #1. In that story I felt inks would have helped. In this story, the figure work is good but the inks seemed heavy handed and didn’t help very much. It appears that Harris has a good handle on how to use a pencil but is still learning to use a brush.

Jim: The Assassination was my favorite story and the artwork was very clean. It is a tale of two assassins who end up being assassinated. A very short buddy movie.
Lee: This was far and away the best story of the series. The subtle way in which the bad guys are themselves targeted for termination was very good. I really enjoyed it and the art was playful and light in contrast to the dark material it presented.

Jim: Overall I would give Issue #1 a “B” and #2 a “C”. I enjoy seeing different styles of art and some of the stories were okay, but I believe writing a good eight page story is one of the most difficult jobs in comics today. The stories need to be tighter and have more of a story to it. Look at what Ellis packs into 16 pages of Fell, it can be done.
Lee: Overall, I would give both issues “C +”. I am always attracted to anthologies because of the different art styles and these issues certainly try, with varying degrees of success, different styles. I felt issue #2 was hurt because I expected a continuation of “On Becoming A Monster.” But, “The Assassination” was the best story of both issues, which balanced things out. I really enjoyed seeing the artists try different things and they all have great potential. It will be interesting the see their development in future issues. Overall, these were a nice couple of books and you won’t be hurt by trying them.


  1. Caffeine Dreams is a great title regardless.

  2. Thanks for taking the time to review the book. All the feedback is much appreciated. Funny you comment on the anatomy though. It was intended. I wanted to make the "immortals" physically twisted as a result of their age and state of decay, making them almost inhuman.

    Did you read the one pager in the back of Caffeine Dreams #1 entitled "A Page From The Sketchbook Of Rand Edmond?"

    Chris Sagovac

  3. Chris-

    It was our pleasure. I made the anatomy comment. My comment was more towards the "Adam" character. At the end when he jumps from the tube (I don't have the book in front of me so excuse the vague terms) but at that point and another he seemed flat. Either to much muscle or not enough shade. Without the book I can't be more precise.

    But I thought the immortals were great. I was clear they were changing (decomposing?) and it was a nice touch.

    Good luck! We're all looking towards more issues.

  4. I do see what you mean about the flatness Lee. I have been experimenting with a lot of different styles recently in attempts to mature as a comic illustrator, while increasing my production speed. It is always a learning process. My attention to lighting, shading and depth subconsciously took a "back seat" when depending on the layering magic of photoshop in the final layout. I will definately keep that in mind for future issues.