The Dreaming #1
Writer: Si Spurrier
Artist: Bilquis Evely
Publisher: Vertigo Comics
“Many a tale is born in loss” goes the first line in The Dreaming #1.
For many years, fans of Neil Gaiman’s The Sandman series have been dealing with the end of one of the greatest comic book series of all time. Sure, Gaiman has returned to the Sandman universe every now and then, most significantly in 2013’s Sandman Overture, but there has never been a true expansion of the Dreaming and its surrounding worlds – until now.
Enter The Sandman Universe, which comprises four series set in the universe that Gaiman created. The first of these titles, The Dreaming, was released last Wednesday, with the subsequent titles – House Of Whispers, Lucifer and The Books Of Magic – to be released later this month.
Each comic is overseen by Gaiman but written by new creative teams. While he may not be writing the books personally, the fact that there are new stories about these characters he created is enough cause to be happy.
Written by Gaiman himself, last month’s The Sandman Universe one-shot established the individual storylines of all four spin-off titles. House of Whispers (written by Nalo Hopkinson with art by Dominike Stanton) follows voodoo deity Erzulie; Lucifer (by writer Dan Watters and artists Max Fiumara and Sebastian Fiumara) continues the story of the once-lord of the underworld, who finds himself trapped in the body of an old man and living in a town that no one can ever leave; and The Books Of Magic (writer Kat Howard, artist Tom Fowler) is a sequel to the 1990 limited series of the same name, following young magician Timothy Hunter, who unexpectedly meets someone who offers to teach him how to master his powers.
Of the four, however, the one that intrigued me the most was The Dreaming, written by Si Spurrier with art by Bilquis Evely. This is arguably the title that has the most direct connection with Gaiman’s past series, as it focuses on supporting characters from The Sandman, such as Lucien the librarian, Matthew the Raven, Mervyn Pumpkinhead, Cain, Abel, and Nuala of Faerie.
These rich characters were such integral parts of the original Sandman series that I’ve always wanted to know more about them, and also read more stories involving them. Matthew the raven, for instance, played an important part in one of my favourite Sandman stories, Brief Lives, while Lucien has always been one of Dream’s most faithful servants.
Intriguingly, The Dreaming also introduces a new character named Dora, one of the few residents of The Dreaming who actually sleeps, we are told. She is a fascinating anomaly, able to raid peoples’ dreams and steal them, among other abilities.
In a neat little tie in to the mainstream DC Comics universe, after the conclusion of Dark Nights: Metal, Dream disappears from his realm of the Dreaming, an action that has some drastic repercussions for both the realm and its people.
Picking up where The Sandman Universe leaves off, The Dreaming #1 sees Lucien despairing over his missing master and a gigantic crack forming above the realm. Along with the absence of its master, the crack could have dangerous consequences for the Dreaming, as it could open the door for its enemies to come through. Already, something mysterious has come through – a hoarde of “blank” men with no minds, no feelings, and no ... well, everything.
As Lucien and the rest of the residents of The Dreaming ponder how to fix the crack and find their missing lord, Dora goes merrily on her way, displaying powers and abilities that could either help save the realm or hasten its destruction.
As far as debut issues go, this is actually a pretty satisfying one. Many #1 issues are plagued by having to set-up the story and establish the characters, but Spurrier benefits from already having an established toy box to play in.
Perhaps helped by the fact that the story was already established in The Sandman Universe, Spurrier gets to inject a sense of urgency into the narrative from the get-go, and moves it smoothly and swiftly along in a way that many other debut issues fail to do.
A lot happens within the pages of this first issue, from the (re)introduction of the main characters as well as Dora, to the establishment of the threats that lie outside of the realm, and it even manages to throw a smackdown between a giant bear and a dragon, and a, er, sex scene into the mix.
The result is a book that kicks off this new Sandman Universe in a pretty exciting way, and poses a lot of questions that I hope Spurrier will be able to answer in half as good a manner as Gaiman once did. And with House Of Whispers coming out tomorrow, I can’t wait to see just how interconnected these four books will be. The Sandman universe is back, and long may it dream.