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Exit Sandman: The Dreaming

Hi there, fellow Alley-ans! Jim here, with another surprisingly consistent entry in this here Alleycat Comics blog. I hope everyone is well. Me, I'm riding high on the news that we just might be getting new comic books in a few weeks. Is it true? Could it be? Am I... Dreaming?

Aaaannnnnnd segue.

If you guys are in my general age range, there's a good chance that Neil Gaiman's The Sandman series was instrumental for you and your love of comic books. I read it in high school and it taught me that comic books could be so much more than superheroes punching and kicking. They can deal with big ideas and adult themes; they can be flowery and literary if need be; they can play with the form of graphic storytelling itself. Of course, Sandman wasn't the first series to embrace these things, but it was MY first, and certainly a lot of other people. I never left superheroes behind and never will, but Sandman opened new doors for me, and I'll always appreciate Neil Gaiman for that.

And now, twenty-something years later, DC recruited Neil Gaiman to revisit the Vertigo Universe that he helped kickstart in the late 80's. The Vertigo imprint is gone, so these new series are branded the Sandman Universe, and the core title in the Sandman Universe line is The Dreaming, written by Simon Spurrier, with art by Bilquis Evely. I totally missed the boat on this when it came out, and now it's time for me to rectify it. So here are my thoughts on The Dreaming: Volume One: Pathways and Emanations.

For those of you who may not be in the know, The Dreaming is the magical realm of dreams in the DC Universe, ruled by Dream, AKA Sandman, AKA Morpheus, AKA Daniel. I'm going to call him Morpheus. In The Dreaming, Morpheus has a crew of workers who maintain the fabric of the collective unconscious of the universe, create fantasies and literal nightmares, and watch over all things imagined.

In the first volume of The Dreaming, we get to check in with all of Morpheus' loveable old crew of loyal servants, Lucien the librarian, custodian Merv Pumpkinhead, Matthew the raven, Cain and Abel, stewards of mysteries and secrets, and Eve, you know, THE Eve. But Morpheus himself is gone, and nobody in his realm knows where. This isn't the first time he's disappeared, so everyone fears the worst. Lucien tries to hold the realm together without letting the others realize anything is amiss, and a disgruntled Merv Pumpkinhead takes drastic measures in an attempt to restore the destabilized realm to normal.

And the wildcard in all this is a new inhabitant of The Dreaming, a rebellious young woman with wings for ears named Dora. She doesn't know where she comes from or what her nature is. All she knows is she receives a gift every morning from some unknown source, and she can get in anywhere she wants to go. By the end of Volume One, I'm eager to learn more about the mystery of Dora, where she came from, and why she's there.

Writer Simon Spurrier does a good job of capturing that Neil Gaiman vibe. It feels a little different, a little faster paced, more modern, but the voices of all the loveable characters of old are intact, and the new characters are unique and interesting. Bilquis Evely's artwork is stunning. The characters are full of personality, and the world is rich with vivid detail and surreal, dreamlike imagery. I'm not entirely sure how accessible the series would be for people who don't know the Sandman mythos. I bet it would be readable and enjoyable, but they make a lot of references to events from the old series, so it would probably be a lot richer with some prior experience.

I honestly don't know how involved Gaiman is in the plotting or story of the Sandman Universe books. For all I know, he just goes "yeah, ok" and cashes his check. If that's the case, that's totally fine. His characters are in good hands.

Thanks for reading! As usual, stay safe, stay home, stay well! Give us a call if you want something to read, or a giant Godzilla toy or something.

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