06 August 2011

Faster than a DC Bullet: The Sandman Spin-Offs, Part VIII: The Dreaming: Beyond the Shores of Night

Comic trade paperback, 208 pages
Published 1998 (contents: 1996-97)

Borrowed from the library
Read July 2011
The Dreaming: Beyond the Shores of Night

Writers: Terry LaBan, Peter Hogan, Alisa Kwitney
Artists: Peter Snejbjerg, Steve Parkhouse, Michael Zulli, Dick Giordano
Colorist & Separator: Daniel Vozzo
Letterers: Todd Klein, Steve Parkhouse, Annie Parkhouse

The Dreaming was the second of the three ongoings to spin out of The Sandman (the others being Sandman Mystery Theatre and Lucifer). Unlike the other two, it's largely uncollected; there are only two trades, which collect a scattered seventeen issues of the sixty-issue series. Maybe this is because it had a sort of anthology format, moving between different characters and concepts from the Dreaming, the realm ruled over by Gaiman's character-- there's not really an ongoing character narrative.

This first volume collects three different stories, the first of which is Terry LaBan and Peter Snejbjerg's "The Goldie Factor." This concerns a couple of my favorite characters from the Dreaming, Cain and Abel, the brothers were one is an eternal murderer and the other is an eternal victim. They set off after Abel's pet gargoyle, Goldie, who is being misled by "the Great Tempto," the snake from the Garden of Eden. Gaiman's Eve, Matthew the Raven, and Lucien also appear. It's a decent quest story, mostly worth it for the way that LaBan nails the personalities of all the different Sandman characters; I like the interplay between the feuding brothers especially. On the other hand, LaBan and Snejbjerg's Dreaming feels too much like a pedestrian fantasy world, not a place you might inadvertently wander into on the fringes of consciousness.

The second story is Peter Hogan and Steve Parkhouse's "The Lost Boy," is about an architect from 1956 who wanders into 1996 and finds a world he doesn't understand. Unfortunately, the man-out-of-time story has been done better than here, and though I think the architect is supposed to be a likeable average guy, he's more just boring. This undercuts an ending which I think would have been sweet had it been written better. The best part of this over-long story (it is by no means a four-issue concept) is the return of Mad Hettie, the vagrant who popped up from time to time in both The Sandman and Death. I honestly never paid a lot of attention to her before, but amidst these dull characters, she delights with her matter-of-fact weirdness, as she speaks plainly about mystical happenings to humans and fairies alike. I really liked Steve Parkhouse's artwork, though.

Last is Alisa Kwitney and Michael Zulli's short "His Brother's Keeper," which follows up on a mention of Cain and Abel's brother Seth from "The Goldie Factor," but then tells a story that has nothing to do with that concept at all. Baffling and dull.

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