The Dreaming Vol One by Simon Spurrier
Art by Bilquis Evely
DC Vertigo, pb, £9.98
Reviewed by Sarah Deeming.
The Dreaming is a place where stories are born. Subject to the subconscious of dreamers it is a wild landscape, cared for by physical embodiments of characters from stories. Nothing is real except for the Lord of Dreams, Daniel. Now, without reason, Daniel has abandoned his domain and its borders are beginning to fail. Lucien the librarian tries to maintain order while they search for Daniel, but the other residents are fighting amongst themselves and releases an evil from the black chest of retired nightmares. Judge Gallows wants the empty throne of the Dreaming for himself and sets out to remake it in his own terrifying vision. Only Dora, a rebellious resident of the Dreaming who doesn’t obey the Lord of Dreams, has the power to help, if they can convince her to.
The Dreaming picks up twenty-three years after Daniel is anointed Lord of Dreams in Neil Gaiman’s Sandman Series. You don’t need to have read this series to understand this story. There are elements that I’m sure some background knowledge would help, like the relationship between Dream and Lucifer, but there is enough backstory to help newcomers to the universe.
This is a dark story, reflecting our darker sides which our dreams can release. The Lord of Dreams is shown as a complex ruler, wallowing in nightmares and creating things of pure evil to torment people in their sleep, while also offering help to others such as Dora who are trapped in their own private hell. But there are moments of humour throughout. Dora stands out from the other inhabitants as less formal in both attire and mannerisms, and she regularly pokes fun at the others. I also found Cain, a character from the original series, amusing in his over-zealous approach to being the first murderer. These moments make for light relief in what is quite a dark tale about power and responsibility.
From the first page, the artwork drew me in. I lingered over the pages taking in every detail. At the back of the book are excerpts from Bilquis Evely’s sketch book which are every bit as gorgeous as the story panels themselves. The use of colour draws the eye as does the clever use of black. One particular double page spread charting the rise of Judge Gallows stands out. There are no gutters between the panels and yet the use of black both separates and joins the image in one nightmarish scene which tells us as much about Judge Gallows as the words, and a lot about the type of entity Dream is. He is neither good nor bad. He just is.
This is one of four books expanding the Sandman Universe and it has definitely whetted my appetite for the other titles. If you’re already a fan of the series, then The Dreaming Vol 1 Pathways and Emanations is a satisfying continuation, and if you’re new, then it is a great introduction.