12th Aug2020

‘The Dreaming: Waking Hours #1’ Review (DC Black Label)

by Dean Fuller

Written by G. Willow Wilson | Art by Nick Robles | Published by DC Black Label

Although at heart when I choose and read my comics I am a superhero guy, I do enjoy dipping into indie stuff and non-superhero stuff along the way. Variety is the spice of life after all. Although Superman, Spider-Man, Captain America, Batman and co. have been companions along the way on my comic book journey, so has 2000AD, Dave Sim’s Cerebus, most of Marvel’s Epic line, Grimjack, Sable and DC’s Vertigo. All of them bring something different to the table, and that’s why I love comics. Something for everyone. I was as disappointed as everyone else when DC disbanded it’s Vertigo line, as in recent times that variety of choice has been withering away. Vertigo had always been a chance for writers and artists to show a different side to their storytelling. Horror, mystery, superheroics with a twist, or just creating mythology as it went along. Which brings us to The Dreaming.

The Dreaming as a book has been around, on and off, since 1996, and was a spin-off to capitalise on the success of Neil Gaiman’s Sandman. At that time Gaiman could have written a shopping list on an envelope and DC would have approved a series based on it. The Dreaming gave more screen time to secondary characters that appeared in The Sandman and was a decent, if not top level, book. It helped that DC always consult Gaiman on these characters and their planned use, an arrangement that continues to this day with Gaiman as a ‘curator’ on the book (essentially an Executive Producer I guess). They never stray far from his vision. If you’ve never read The Dreaming that’s usually not a problem as many stories are self contained, continuity exists only in so far as the fact the same characters pop up sometimes. So let’s see what Wilson and Robles have for us.

Meet Lindy. Lindy is a single mother with a young baby, who is also trying to study for an English Literature PhD, get in some tutoring on the side, and hopefully make her rent every month. Lindy is also currently plagued by strange dreams about empty, floating houses and is getting by on a few hours sleep a night. Something’s got to give. Something kind of does. Her next dream is different. Same house, same place, but this time there is someone else in it. A young man who seems pleasant enough, if a little startled that Lindy can see him. Actually, hold that thought. The explosion of tentacles from his face aren’t promising, nor the fact he reveals that he is a nightmare. Time for Lindy to wake up…Only Lindy wakes up still in the dream, though this time she realises this is Stratford-upon-Avon, and that man scribbling away at the table is William Shakespeare. That’s pretty cool. Not so cool is the fact that the nightmare guy has woken up in the real world, and has run off with Lindy’s baby.

The young man is Ruin, a personified nightmare. He knows just one person outside the Dreaming, an angel called Jophiel living as a normal person. Jophiel clearly isn’t too happy at seeing Ruin, but can’t not help the baby. Ruin explains he only wanted to escape the Dreaming with Lindy, but ended up swapping places with her. She stays, she dies. Ruin’s escape has not gone unnoticed by Dream, Lord of the Dreaming, who realises that Ruin was deliberately set free by one of the other nightmares. But why? For what purpose? Nothing good I’d wager.

This was fun. A nice fresh take on The Dreaming, focusing mainly on new characters while remaining true to the existing mythology. Wilson’s story was solid, a gradual reveal that nicely intertwined Lindy, Shakespeare, Ruin, and ultimately Dream. The pacing was perfect, raising my enjoyment levels every few pages. Nick Robles art was great in the technical sense, lovely to look at and also perfectly paced through great use of panel sizes and layout. Perhaps a little on the conventional side for art in a Vertigo type book, but I really enjoyed it nonetheless.

A perfect book for anyone looking for a way to try out this corner of the DC Universe. Come visit the house that Neil built, it’s still a great place to visit.

****½  4.5/5


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