by Drew Baumgartner
This article contains SPOILERS. If you haven’t read the issue yet, proceed at your own risk!
The Lord of the Dreaming has abandoned his post, leaving his realm in the hands of his followers and beneficiaries. That’s the premise of The Dreaming, but it’s also a reasonable explanation of “The Sandman Universe” group, where a handful of hand-picked creators have been given the keys to the settings and characters Neil Gaiman created back before Vertigo was even a glimmer in Karen Berger’s eye. I’m fascinated at Gaiman’s mentorship role here, and how Si Spurrier and Bilquis Evely have addressed those real-world elements as meta-commentaries in the narrative, but I’ll limit the focus here to how they address the notion of reverence for what has come before.
On the one hand is Lucien, so devoted to his master (and so tied to the world that seems to crumble in his master’s absence), that he can barely finish his own sentences.
His world is literally falling apart, but since that world’s guiding principle is that “Dream can fix it,” Lucien doesn’t have a lot of solutions on hand. Of course, when a more acute threat rears its head, Lucien can muster a passing imitation of Daniel Hall, but aping an idol is hardly a long-term solution.
Enter Dora, a character with none of Lucien’s reverence and none of Dream’s staid stoicism. Multiple characters reference her need for food — something no other denizens of the dreaming seem to share — but her penchant for earthly pleasures is obviously bigger than that. Where Dream famously swore off pleasures of the flesh, Dora has a casual fuck-buddy relationship with a demon. He seems like a benign enough character until he sees the opportunity to claim the Dreaming as his own, where he immediately becomes a much bigger threat.
Dora’s irreverence allows her more creative freedom (and gives the story direction), but it’s also incredibly risky. Lucien’s reverence virtually freezes him in place, but it also rescues the Dreaming from Dora’s recklessness. These are opposing forces, but they seem to be balancing each other elegantly here. And I suppose it’s that balance that most intrigues me about this series. Spurrier’s prior work is full of independent oddballs like Dora, but Lucien’s stabilizing force seems like a new twist on that theme. Moreover, the animosity Dora clearly has for Daniel Hall complicates any relationship she might have with Dream’s followers.
Taken together, Lucien, Dora, and Balam’s reactions to this power vacuum create a fascinatingly nuanced snapshot of a world in the wake of a legend’s departure. Do we cling to the old ways in hopes of stability? Do we forge a new path? Do we claim the legacy as our own? True to form, Spurrier offers no easy answers, but this first issue hints at a deep exploration of these themes.
The conversation doesn’t stop there. What do you wanna talk about from this issue?