Have you ever wanted to see a world crumble to dust? If you’ve seen The Neverending Story you already have, but what if that world was connected to all life through their subconscious dreams? The Dreaming appears to be going down that road, but it’s not quite gone yet.
So what’s it about?
The official summary reads:
In the garden of Destiny, eyes that do not see run across paper that was never a tree. The oldest of the Endless is reading about a librarian losing his mind. About a monstress losing her soul. About a kingdom losing its king. The Dreaming is bleeding color. The grim judge tightens his grip. And in the realm of Destruction, endings are spun into beginnings…
Why does this matter?
Neil Gaiman has personally curated this and other Sandman Universe stories, so you know it’s the real deal. Si Spurrier and Bilquis Evely have delivered a book more about a realm that is practically inconceivable in human terms and accomplished much in the four issues so far. The characters are rich, the world vibrant, and that’s all about to come crashing down.
Fine, you have my attention. What’s good about it?
Spurrier has done a great job with layering story on top of the story. It’s the kind of narrative that begs to be read more than once to find a deeper meaning or something you might have missed. Through captions, you are drawn into deep truths involving the characters while things break apart literally and figuratively. The Judge was introduced in previous issues and his reign as ruler is turning the once pleasant Dreaming into a hellscape, not unlike World War I Germany. While the chaos flies, Spurrier introduces a concept from the Ashikaga shogunate further developing how this world is connected to our reality. Everything falling apart then might have big implications for reality.
The narrative is split between an uprising of those who remain against the Judge and a predicament Dora and Lucien are in. Lucien is losing his mind and Dora has great power and connection to the Sandman we have yet to realize. She’s clearly the protagonist of this tale, but she’s stubborn and a bit foolish. Spurrier gives their scene a lot of energy as Lucien is breaking down and, in a clever twist, hearing the captions we are reading. It’s in this scene that we realize things are much worse than we might think to build towards a cliffhanger that could lead anywhere. In a bit of genius dialogue, Lucien says, “Destruction is nothing but the frozen moment between an ending and a beginning.” This is a series that is at once deep, moving, and gratifying.
The art by Evely and Abigail Larson continues to be detailed in ways that make this world seem vividly real. The use of color by Mat Lopes and Quinton Winter in the early pages hammers home the very depressing state the Dreaming is in. Bilquis delivers two awe-inspiring double page layouts that are showstoppers featuring Sandman. Seriously, if you’ve ever dabbled in this series do yourself a favor and just look at these pages she’s pulled off. One has Dora’s first moments of life, and another features the many trials Lucien has encountered. Larson handles much of the Judge confrontation scenes which have a similar thin lined detailed style as Evely’s with a touch more haunting imagery.
It can’t be perfect, can it?
The Lucien and Dora scenes, while impactful and filled with emotional story beats, does spin its wheels a bit. They’re in a blank sort of space with confusion and Lucien losing it that runs its course after a bit. I wanted more, be it a scene change or some kind of turn of events besides their bickering. About four of these pages feel a bit slow even if there are impactful beats strewn throughout.
Is it good?
Things are really heating up in The Dreaming. If you haven’t jumped on now get ready because the next issue may just blow the lid off the series. This is a series that is at once deep, moving, and gratifying.