Judge Gallows may be the scariest villain introduced this year.
The Dreaming has been aptly named from the start, although I suspect not many were anticipating the Sandman’s absence. He’s always been the center of these stories so it comes as a bit of a shock to see the supporting cast taking center stage. It’s no more evident than in this issue that the actual Dreaming is a character, since major changes begin to take hold.
So what’s it about?
The official summary reads:
As the Dreaming slips deeper into chaos, its frightened denizens yearn for strong leaders to guide them back to greatness. Enter Judge Gallows: nightmare of the major arcana, terror of the old frontier, whose thoughts and actions come knotted in hemp… Released from Morpheus’ black chest after a century in the dark, he may not be merciful–but he’s always right. His first case? Lucien’s fitness to lead…
Why does this matter?
This is curated by the creator himself, Neil Gaiman, and continues the story while also delivering new insight into the characters he created in the 90s. Bilquis Evely is also a phenomenal artist who stands alone in her style and detail art style.
Fine, you have my attention. What’s good about it?
We’ve gone two issues with no real changes to the Dreaming, but rather small blips revealing things aren’t going well at all. It’s not until this issue that a tectonic shift is afoot thanks to the introduction of Judge Gallows, a character that the Sandman has had to reprimand and deal with over the years. He’s quite a scary character that stirs the pot so much in this issue there’s no telling what will happen to the realm of the Dreaming going forward.
This is in large part thanks to Simon Spurrier’s great captions, which are winding and beautifully written, capturing the storybook nature of Judge Gallows. This may be the densest comic read I’ve encountered all year thanks to the story introducing Judge Gallows, but also giving us a scope of his status over the years so that we understand he’s conniving, hyper intelligent, and probably the most dangerous character to enter the Dreaming with Sandman gone.
This issue also has great confessional moments between Lucien and a character that looks shockingly like Bilquis Evely that are key to the third act. Evely shows off her character acting skills here, drawing you into Lucien’s state of mind and also a trick taking place among these panels. The issue also has beautifully rendered montage scenes revealing Judge Gallows’ past acts that tell the tale in a storybook-like fashion.
It can’t be perfect can it?
Given how magical the Dreaming is it’s hard to determine the stakes in play. I understand the characters are being threatened, but really what can Judge Gallows do? There’s a hint of sorts that he might mess with people’s dreams, but it’s not sure if that’s what he even wants. Without knowing the stakes it’s hard to get excited for what may happen yet to the point where you might even welcome Judge Gallows since he can at least give the people in Dreaming some kind of order and protection.
Is it good?
This is another strong issue in the DC Vertigo line of Sandman comics due to its ability to tell a complex story in storybook terms. Judge Gallows may be the scariest villain introduced of the year.