The Sandman, Vol. 2: The Doll's House
by Neil Gaiman
Volume II begins with a recap of everything that happened in the first volume. There’s a story set in the midst of a barren desert about a queen named Nada. She falls in love at first sight, but she can’t find the man who stole her heart.
Then we move onto Rose the main character in this volume. She discovers her real grandmother is alive and well in England. She returns to America to search for her missing brother Jed. She moves into a boarding house with a collection of strange characters, Gilbert the landlord, Ken and Barbie, and two creepy sisters who collects spiders.
We learn that Rose is actually a dream vortex and her presence is causing problems. While the people in the boarding house all dream very different dreams, but walls begin to break down and Rose's vortex merges their dreams. Meanwhile Morpheus is searching for the missing nightmares who escaped from the dream world while he was imprisoned. We also stop by a horrifying “cereal” convention. Without going into detail I’ll just note that this part was seriously scary.
One of my favorite stories in this volume was about Hobbs, a man who wants to live forever. He meets Morpheus and the two decide to meet up once every hundred years. During that time they run into Shakespeare and other major historical events. I love that Morpheus, who is so lonely and distant, finally has a friend of sorts in Hobbs.
Neil Gaiman always weaves mythology, religion, fables, and pieces of history together in such an interesting way. Nothing is off limits in his writing. I love that he uses all those elements in his stories. It’s the plot, not the illustrations that keep me coming back to these. Although I do love how every character’s thoughts and dialogue has a different font.
BOTTOM LINE: Whenever I read one of the Sandman comics I struggle with how dark some of the content is. But when I get to the end I tend to love the overarching message, depth of character and the well-thought-out plot. I am glad that I got a more balanced taste of the Sandman comics instead of just stopping after the very first one, but I do think they are a bit too dark for me.
"Life as a human contains substance I never dreamed of in the dreaming, Lord. The little victories, and the tiny defeats."
Sandman Vol. III: Dream Country
by Neil Gaiman
The third volume contains four stories. The first is the darkest, containing a tale of Calliope, a kidnapped muse who is kept prisoner by two authors. She is exploited by them so that they can further their own careers. It’s a sad tale, but it has a point. The next tale is about the ambitions and dreams of cats. They dream of a world ruled by their kind who reign over humans. Again it was interesting and not too dark.
My favorite of the four is a Shakespearean inspired bit about Midsummer Night’s Dream. A traveling troupe is performing the comedy in the 16th century and without their knowledge it’s being watched by the real Queen Titania and King Oberon. The real Puck joins in the fun as well, donning a mask and acting in the play.
The final piece is about a woman who has been transformed by the sun god Ra. She is left in a disturbing physical state, but she can’t die. She wears a mask and lives a horrible life, longing for an escape she can’t have. The best part about this story was the appearance of Death, the punk rocker sister of Morpheus.
BOTTOM LINE: There’s no denying that the stories are still incredibly dark, but for me each story had a real message this time. They weren’t dark for the sake of shocking the reader. Gaiman’s talent as a writer came through a bit more and I’m curious about the characters of Death and Morpheus.
I read these as part of Comics February, which is hosted by Debi at Talking to Myself and Chris at Stuff As Dreams Are Made On.