The Sandman universe is ever expanding, and last week we got a good taste of what is going on in The Dreaming. This week, Nalo Hopkinson and Dominike Stanton reveal a new sliver of the universe via gods of the south who have ties to Voodoo culture. Neil Gaiman never limited his universe to any specific type of god and this realm of godhood can only add a richness to the tapestry of the universe.
So what’s it about?
The official summary reads:
Welcome to the House of Dahomey, the houseboat of Erzulie Fréda, where the souls of Voodoo followers go when they sleep to beseech the flirtatious and tragic goddess to grant them their hearts’ desires and counsel them on their futures and fortunes. When you arrive, you’ll find a party is in full swing, filled with all kinds of fabulous and fierce folk, while fish fry and music blasts.
Why does this matter?
Fans of American Gods are going to love this. This continues the tradition of revealing how gods live among us, affect us, and are part of our culture and yet we can’t see them.
Fine, you have my attention. What’s good about it?
This issue does a good job introducing the cast of characters while connecting gods to humankind. It opens with a party hosted by Erzulie Fréda who is a type of dream god in the deep south. One of the invited guests is a bit of a monster and he reveals how ruthless and frightening he can be early on.
As the story progresses we see how Fréda helps humanity though even she admits her help may hinder these folks in due time. In one example we learn a woman wants a man to love her, but Fréda is well aware this same man will probably beat her and he’s a jealous type too. It’s an indirect power which we later learn is a purposeful thing. That’s why when Fréda’s nephew directly touches a family (the same family we met in Sandman Universe) she’s rather pissed off.
The art by Stanton is detailed and good at mixing up layout design to keep the story moving. There’s a beautiful layout halfway through the book that shows off detailed gutters with flowers and eyes which help convey the power of Fréda very well. Uncle Monday of the Brotherhood is a fascinating character who we learn is quite ferocious. Stanton shows this via well placed close-ups of his terrible teeth and panels showing his skin is anything but smooth and pretty. Readers are also introduced to Fréda in a ballroom scene that’s layered with details to help convey how wild Fréda’s party is getting.
It can’t be perfect can it?
One frustration I have for the book that others may not share is how there are no rules laid out in any clear way. You’re supposed to figure out the powers these characters have, what is going on, and what it all means. Admittedly this is an aspect that most Sandman books have, but here it seems overly so. Once we see Mistress Erzulie Fréda use her powers things start to make sense, which only takes about four pages to get to. The cliffhanger seems to suggest a better sense of how these characters tie into the bigger picture is coming, which should help matters.
Is it good?
A good first issue that ties the human realm with the reality of the gods while introducing its cast of characters in vivid visual ways.