12 February 2011

Faster than a DC Bullet: Sandman Mystery Theatre, Part VI: Dr. Death and The Night of the Butcher

Comic trade paperback, 197 pages
Published 2007 (contents: 1994-95)

Borrowed from the library
Read January 2011
Sandman Mystery Theatre: Dr. Death and The Night of the Butcher

Writers: Matt Wagner, Steven T. Seagle
Artists: Guy Davis, Vince Locke
Colorist: David Hornung
Letterers: John Costanza, Gaspar Saladino

Like The Face and The Brute, Dr. Death and The Night of the Butcher includes two complete tales of the Sandman, a.k.a. Wesley Dodds, as he fights crime in the dark underbelly of New York City. And as if the writers read my objection to the fact that every victim in this series deserves it, the book even opens up the murder of an innocent man! (Um, yay?) But as was the case in the last couple stories, the murder mystery (which as usual is coincidentally linked to Dian Belmont's social circle) is a sideshow to the developments in the relationship between Wesley and Dian. Dian has figured out that Wesley is the Sandman, but doesn't quite know what to do about it. And Wesley doesn't quite know how to integrate her needs into his already-structured life.

Wesley actually has very little to do with solving "The Night of the Butcher" especially, but that's okay, as it allows Lieutenant Burke to really shine, along with Hubert Klein. But as Wes's personal life disintegrates, so does his crimefighting one-- Burke discovers the radio hidden under his desk that transmits all his conversations to the Sandman! What's a masked mystery man to do? And what's Dian to do? There are no easy answers here, and the series swings back and forth between tender and painful, as they try to negotiate their strange new status quo. Especially effective here are the recurring dreams of the Sandman, a staple of the series from the beginning, that in this one hit a new high in disturbingness, probably thanks to some nice comic book tricks (Scott McCloud would be proud).

The only downside to this volume is that Guy Davis only does layouts for "Dr. Death," with the somewhat inferior Vince Locke on art. On the other hand, the brutal fight at the end of "The Night of the Butcher" is probably the series' best action sequence so far, nicely showcasing the Sandman's determination, Lieutenant Burke's antagonism, and Dian Belmont's passion. Sandman Mystery Theatre continues its string of successes.

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