06 August 2011

Faster than a DC Bullet: The Sandman Spin-Offs, Part IX: The Dreaming: Through the Gates of Horn and Ivory

Comic trade paperback, 224 pages
Published 1999 (contents: 1997-98)

Borrowed from the library
Read July 2011
The Dreaming: Through the Gates of Horn and Ivory

Writers: Caitlin R. Kiernan, Peter Hogan, Jeff Nicholson
Artists: Peter Doherty, Paul Lee, Jeff Nicholson, Gary Amaro, Chris Weston, d'Israeli
Colorist: Daniel Vozzo
Letterer: Todd Klein

The second volume of The Dreaming has more of a throughline than the first, which is probably meant to stop it from feeling like a series of weak imitations of the standalone issues of its parent series. That said, it's actually one of the standalones that's the best story in this book, Jeff Nicholson's "Day's Work, Night's Rest," which tells of an office drone who dreams that he's working with Merv Pumpkinhead's construction team in the Dreaming. Merv was my second-favorite character in The Sandman, so of course I loved this, despite a bleak ending at odds with the tone of the rest of the story, not to mention the art. How could Merv telling everyone that he runs the Dreaming not be fun?

I also really enjoyed Peter Hogan and Gary Amaro's "Ice," which is a mood piece about a number of different Sandman characters some New Year's Eve/Day: Lucien, Merv, Farrell the God of Transport, Nuala, Cluracan. The Cluracan subplot is baffling, but it's small, and the interplay between Lucien and Nuala, now over Dream and working in a bar on the Earth, is sweet.

Caitlin R. Kiernan, Peter Doherty, and d'Israeli's "Souvenirs" promises to be interesting because it focuses on my favorite Sandman character, Matthew the Raven, teaming him up with the Corinthian, which worked really well in The Kindly Ones. Unfortunately, this story is nonsensical, and then is just stops. Matthew gets some good material, though, such as when someone on the Earth realizes he's a talking raven: "Yeah, Sherlock. I can talk. I'm a talking bird. Now, call him an ambulance or I'm gonna peck your stupid face off." The story gets a direct followup in Caitlin Kiernan and Paul Lee's "An Unkindness of One," which should be even better but is even worse. It puts Matthew back in his human body and Lucien back into a raven one, but then does nothing interesting with either concept, aside from the occasional cool image, and there's a lot about Echo, the villain in "Souvenirs" and I just don't care. How could you mess up what should be the definitive Matthew story this bad?

The book is rounded out by another Peter Hogan story, this time with Chris Weston, "My Year as a Man," which is an okay tale about one of Dream's earlier ravens. Nothing too bad, nothing too great; the best part is the brief appearance of Abel, Lucien, and Matthew in the frame.

Apparently Caitlin Kiernan essentially took over the direction of The Dreaming after this; maybe I should be grateful that the rest of the issues are uncollected even if they are about some great characters, as based on her lackluster six issues here, she just doesn't get what makes the Dreaming interesting.

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