07th Jun2019

‘The Dreaming Vol.1: Pathways & Emanations’ Graphic Novel Review

by Dean Fuller

Written by Neil Gaiman, Simon Spurrier | Art by Bilquis Evely | Published by DC Vertigo | Format: Paperback, 200pp


Ah, Vertigo, the house that Neil built. Gaiman that is. Without Neil Gaiman there would probably be no Vertigo, or at least not the successful imprint it became. Being fair, it’s also right to say without Editor Karen Berger there would definitely be no Vertigo as not only did she recruit Neil Gaiman to work at DC, she also brought in Grant Morrison, Jamie Delano and Peter Milligan among others and brought a new sensibility to DC. If there’s one thing Americans like, its British cynicism. As a side note, Neil Gaiman wrote one of my favourite books ever, Death: The High Cost of Living, which as a dedicated superhero fan is saying something. Death, of course, was one of The Endless, and The Endless featured prominently in The Sandman and, wait for it, The Dreaming. See what I did there?

The Dreaming was originally a book that ran from 1996 to 2001, and I still have many of those original issues. It was at times a great read, though uneven at times, essentially an extra fix for fans of The Sandman and Morpheus’s extended universe. It featured a rotating cast of characters and creators, all telling their own stories in Neil’s sandbox, which he oversaw as creative consultant on the book. Roll forward to 2018, and to celebrate the 30th Anniversary of The Sandman a brand new shiny The Dreaming book has appeared as part of a rebooted Sandman Universe corner of the DC Universe. What’s old is new again, as Neil Gaiman is again back, this time as ‘curator’ overseeing the general direction of the books, with some plotting insight. Let’s give it a look.

Firstly, I must be honest I didn’t read the last year or so of the original Dreaming run, so have no idea if the characters are being used with that continuity still in play or we are going down the clean slate reboot route. The characters themselves, though, are very much back. Cain and Abel, Lucien the Librarian, Matthew the Raven, and Merv Pumpkinhead, the janitor of The Dreaming, among others. For those who are new to the Sandman mythology, the Dreaming is essentially the place where people go to dream. It’s not a physical place as such, but a landscape that is fluid, that changes with events and people. It is also the realm of Dream, one of the Endless, which he rules from his castle in the dream world. Or at least he did. Dream, you see, has done a runner.

This is where this trade collection starts from, the fact that Dream has upped and left. Dream, or Daniel as he prefers to be called, was the successor to the previous Dream, Morpheus. Without his direct control, his realm starts to break down, borders start to collapse, and nightmares can now re-emerge from hiding. While the majority of the inhabitants are unaware, Lucien, Merv, and Matthew the Raven try to keep things together and find out just why, and where, Daniel has gone. If word gets out, every two bit demon and deity will be coming to try and take over The Dreaming. And just who, or what, is Dora? hero or villain? devil or angel? both? neither? She is certainly a wildcard at a time when wildcards are not really welcome.

While Lucien and Matthew the Raven take the conventional approach and look for Daniel, Merv decides tougher action is need to safeguard the realm. He releases Judge Gallows, a spirit of vengeance who promises to restore order. Gallows, though, has his own agenda, which involves ruling the Dreaming himself, and his plans start to unleash a new terror on people. The continuing breakdown of the Dreaming is also causing strange things to occur. Lucien’s memory is failing him, Abel is becoming dominant over Cain, and a new birth seems to be imminent with the appearance of a strange chrysalis. Lucien does find Daniel, who cryptically tells him his leaving is not of his choice, and leaves this reality, seemingly for good. Dora, meanwhile, helps put Gallows back in his place, just as a new god is born. An insane new god.

As relaunches go, this was excellent. There was enough lip service and reverence to the past to make older fans happy, but also some new characters and ideas to shake up the status quo. The abdication of Daniel especially, as that shakes up the entire dynamic of The Dreaming. Although Gaiman obviously has some form of overall say, the heavy lifting is done by scripter Simon Spurrier, and he does a fine job. He tells a great story while leaving enough plot threads dangling to make us want to come back for more. I certainly will. The art, by Bilquis Evely, and colours by Mat Lopes, give the book that Vertigo house look, with nice moody visuals and strong storytelling layouts that incorporate the heavy amount of text this storytelling requires.

A more than worthy addition to the Sandman Universe, this reminds you what made you fall in love with Vertigo all those years ago, and just how strong these characters are. Highly recommended.

****½  4.5/5

The Dreaming Vol.1: Pathways & Emanations will be released by DC Vertigo on June 11th. Pre-order a copy here.


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