The Dreaming is a series many have been greatly anticipating for years. Neil Gaiman has dabbled in writing Sandman, but it’s not until this series that the mythos has developed in a new direction. In this second chapter the characters that keep Sandman’s world running begin to see what is really going on, and it’s not good.
So what’s it about?
The official summary reads:
Merv Pumpkinhead ain’t happy. Sure, Merv Pumpkinhead doesn’t exactly radiate happy at the best of times, but now? Right now a bunch of blank-faced strangers from between realities are taking local jobs; foreign criminals are profiteering at the realm’s expense; and the VIPs seem more interested in themselves than getting back to the “good old days.” The Dreaming used to be somewhere a vegetable-headed guy could be proud to call home, y’know?
Why does this matter?
The stakes are high and the characters’ worlds are changing. It’s in this series that readers will understand how Sandman’s world changes forever and that’s exciting. This issue is presented exclusively from Mervyn’s perspective, who is the janitor of sorts for the Dreaming. He’s also a walking and talking pumpkin with an attitude and the gumption to get down to the truth of things. That doesn’t bode well for Lucien, who is trying to fool everyone into thinking Sandman is not lost while their world crumbles around them.
Fine, you have my attention. What’s good about it?
Getting a full issue of Mervyn’s take helps solidify the characters’ place in importance and within the group of slowly narrowing characters. The issue is designed like a testimonial or one of those reality shows where the main character talks to the audience which further connects you to Mervyn’s dilemma. Focusing on this character allows us to peer into the wild world early on, revealing a type of dreamer that can create problems for folks like Mervyn who try to keep things together on his side of the dream.
Classic of this format in comics, it all ends with a twist as to who he is really talking to, which helps ramp up in the gravity of all that he said. This narrative approach also helps establish an accounting of how bad it is getting in the Dreaming and how the other shoe needs to drop soon or all will be lost.
As the issue progresses we get a check in on other characters too, including Dora who continues to be an enigma. I have a feeling writer Si Spurrier is going to give us a full fledged reveal at some point since he continues to build up the mystery of what (or who?) Dora is further developing her via hearsay. We also get another clear example of her going full demonic on a character as her rage takes over once again.
Bilquis Evely is without a doubt one of my favorite artists working today and she continues to show why here. She never skimps on her work like some artists do simply because deadlines force them to work faster. The work always looks highly detailed and polished. It’s a style that is reminiscent of the bit of art you get in a prose novel that clearly took ages to draw simply because the art only popped up every 50 pages — and yet we get it on every page here. The style continues to work wonderfully too since the Dreaming is so wild and chaotic and yet the art is so certain and grounded in a realistic way.
It can’t be perfect can it?
Plot-wise the story isn’t pushed forward much at all. The world is still crumbling, the characters are still making do, and Dora continues to be a mystery. The last page suggests big changes are coming, but I’d like to see the pace pick up. As it stands, this issue is decompressed when it comes to the larger story and we probably won’t get a major turn until the arc ends.
Is it good?
This series continues to hold up incredibly well to the work Gaiman, Sam Kieth, and Mike Dringenberg gave the world in the 90s. The central mystery hasn’t changed much, but it’s a delight to experience the world anew in this great series.