Nocturnal Conspiracies: Nineteen Dreams

By David B.
128 pages, two-color
Published by NBM

At a glance, a new book from David B. published in English is a reason to celebrate. His autobiographical Epileptic was nothing short of outstanding, and its follow-up Babel has proven to be worthy of attention as well. When I looked a little closer, though, I must admit that I was worried about B.’s Nocturnal Conspiracies. Dream diaries can be a hard sell by their very nature—would this one manage to rise above the rest?

Nocturnal Conspiracies has nineteen of B.’s dreams, all transformed into comic book format. From secret funeral processions to monstrous tiger tanks, anything and everything is possible in each of these slightly off-kilter stories.

The high point of Nocturnal Conspiracies is, easily, B.’s gorgeous two-color art. He layers the blue and black on the page in such a beautiful, pleasing way that it’s actually hard to imagine him using a full-color process to create something better. The art itself has a great composition, with jagged, angular edges making different figures just pop out across the page at the reader. Shards of glass, an attacker’s elbow, pointed roofs, it doesn’t matter—every page just looks distinct and amazing. With B.’s imaginative dreams jumping across logic and reality, it really lets B. cut loose in a way that makes you realize there’s nothing that he can’t create on the page.

The big problem I have with dream diary comics in general is that they often feel very slight, almost more of a writing exercise than an actual story. Creators like Rick Veitch can turn their dreams into beautifully drawn and constructed comics, but the end result makes me unable to get that worked up about the finished product. That, unfortunately, is also the case with Nocturnal Conspiracies. It’s frustrating because some of these dream fragments seem like good launching points for a full, coherent story—the Seven Wonders of the World being rebuilt amid the structures of Paris, or discovering a whole series of books by an author that never existed—but they don’t really go anywhere. I know that it’s because of the nature of the strips being retold dreams, and that dreams often don’t follow conventional logic, but that doesn’t mean the end result gets an automatic pass into interesting.

If you’re a fan of B.’s art, then you should absolutely pick up Nocturnal Conspiracies; David B. uses the two-color process like a champion here, and the end result is gorgeous. Just be warned that if you’re more of a fan of B.’s comics because you liked the writing in Epileptic or Babel, that you will almost certainly end up disappointed. Like most dreams, Nocturnal Conspiracies‘s stories are easily forgotten.

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