March 26, 2023

Gabbing Geek

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Comic Review: The Dreaming Volume 1

Dream/Daniel is missing from the Dreaming. That is never a good thing.

DC’s former Vertigo line really hit its stride in the late 80s and into the 90s.  A handful of series, like Alan Moore’s run on Swamp Thing and Jamie Delano’s Hellblazer really helped make something of DC’s mature readers line.  But the real flagship title that got everything up and running was probably Neil Gaiman’s The Sandman.  It spawned multiple spin-offs, made Gaiman’s career, and honestly, is a personal favorite of mine even if I did inadvertently read them out-of-order.

Well, Gaiman helped set up a new line of spin-off titles for the series.recently, and I thought to give one of them a shot.  So, that meant looking into the first volume of The Dreaming subtitled Pathways and Emanations.

It looks like all Gaiman did was plot out a prime issue that spun out four new titles.  The Dreaming is set in the realm of Dream of the Endless, the main setting for Gaiman’s old series.  That series famously ended with the quasi-death of Morpheus and the ascension of a more lenient version of Dream called Daniel (sometimes).  However, as the volume opens, we see there’s a problem in the Dreaming:  Daniel is missing, no one knows where he went or why he left, and the Dreaming is falling apart.  The prime denizens of the Dreaming all have different plans, but Lucien the Librarian can’t hold everything together, There’s some kind of rift opening in the sky, a pile of geometric cubes floating above a large chasm, Abel is getting more assertive while Cain slinks down into a state of confusion, and then Merv Pumpkinhead makes a huge mistake.

Merv, though often written as crude and maybe a little dumb, is basically the Dreaming’s handyman.  Since everything is broken, he needs to fix it somehow.  So, he pulls a potent nightmare, Judge Gallows, out of Dream’s trunk to try and fix things.  Gallows is all about order, but the Dreaming isn’t a very orderly place even when things are running correctly.  Can Gallows be stopped before something new and potentially more powerful is born?  Why did Daniel leave?  And who is this Dora, a young woman of some kind who can flit in and out of any realm without batting an eyelash, even after Gallows closes the Dreaming off to anyone.

So, Gaiman was involved in the set-up here, and that was about it.  Most of the writing is from Simon Spurrier, and it’s fine but something about it didn’t work for me.  I think it comes from the fact the original Sandman was a story about a god of sorts and the scale was epic from the beginning here.  By leaving most of the story in the Dreaming itself, the threat to the rest of existence just never seems to come through the way it sometimes did with Gaiman’s original.  Likewise, there may be too many characters to really latch onto one to focus on.  It comes across like a valiant effort that doesn’t quite hit the mark.  I doubt I’ll be giving a second one a shot unless someone whose taste I trust recommends it.

7.5 out of 10 immigration allegories.

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