Mark Reads ‘The Sandman’: 1×04 – A Hope In Hell

In the fourth issue of Sandman, Morpheus goes to Hell. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read Sandman.

“A Hope In Hell”

Look, it’s not that the writing is sub-par or that it suffers in anyway in the fourth issue of this novel. It’s fantastic! It’s clever, riddled with subtext, and ridiculously entertaining to read. But what really brings this trip to Hell to life is the work by Sam Kieth, Mike Dringenberg, and Daniel Vozzo. The two artists and the colorist (respectively) take an idea so outlandish and over-the-top (and I mean that as a compliment) and imbue it with an unsettling sense of realism. I don’t know that I’ve ever seen a visual representation of Hell that’s quite so horrifying and fascinating at the same time. There’s a panel on the third page that queued me in to what the artists were going to do with Gaiman’s story: it’s the gate of Hell, and it’s made of bodies, bones, and other horrors, colored in a muted, dull red. Hell isn’t a dark place, and that’s what I loved about it. There are prisons and pits, yes, but everything’s out in the open. It’s all there to be seen and witnessed.

Also, Morpheus punches Squatterbloat in the face. He literally gives no fucks at all.

Etrigan is incredible. HE IS IN SANDMAN. Oh my god, the potential for DC crossovers is so disgustingly high that I can’t deal with it. Who else is going to show up? No, don’t tell me. That’s going to be half the fun of discovering the world of Sandman. The other fun is going to come from how fun this is. I guess it’s weird to say that it’s fun to take a trip through hell but come on. Morningstar looks like David Bowie. There’s absolutely nothing that isn’t perfect about that. (Remember, Lucifer used to be an angel, so I really appreciate that he’s not made a hideous demon. That’s reserved for Beelzebub and Azazel. On top of that, there are SO MANY tiny details about Hell that aren’t explored at all, but Gaiman still makes references to them. The wood of suicides, the entombed souls of pity, THE AMAZING ART FOR DIS, THE HELLCITY. Then Morningstar casually drops the fact that Morpheus is related to Destiny, Death, and Despair. No big deal. There’s the unexplained challenge to Heaven, and then there is one of the most incredible pages I’ve ever seen in a comic book: the image of the triumvirate of Hell standing with Morpheus, overlooking over a million demons of Hell. I can’t stop staring at this page. There are so many demons, they all look so strange, and I keep finding new things to appreciate in this panel. It’s unbelievable, an evocative work of detail and the strange, and I’m so glad this is a graphic novel. How would you describe this??? Not that Gaiman couldn’t do that, as he did an amazing job with the gods in American Gods, but there’s a power in this part of the story because we can see the vast scope of Hell.

I didn’t initially understand the challenge between Choronzon and Morpheus. Was Choronzon just being sassy? (No, seriously, what is he the demon of? He looks amazing and I would party with him. By “party,” I mean “hang around and discuss queer revolution.” It actually took me until the second page to get that they were essentially using logic to come up with more progressively witty ways to destroy what the other person imagined. It’s actually a really funny scene (at least to me) because it doesn’t take long for Choronzon to act like a child or my own writing. (Seriously, how many times have I said something is the best ever in all universes and worlds of everything forever? Pretty sure I’m the number one Google result for that exact phrase.) It’s by winning this (by using hope get it do you get it) that I find out that the Helm Morpheus was looking for was that strange helmet he wore when he was conjured up by Roderick Burgess. Neat! So now Morpheus has two of his Tools, which means it’s time for him to go after the ruby and the Justice League.


Mark Links Stuff

- Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr. Follow away!
– I go on tour THIS WEEK. This is the master post with all dates; each city name links to the RSVP page on Facebook. I will be in 15 cities in the western half of North America. Posts will continue uninterrupted while I’m tour! If you live near any of the cities I’m coming to, all events are free and will be a blast. Come support me and BE ENTERTAINED.
- I am reading bad fic/novels on video to raise money for my AIDS/LifeCycle ride in June. Contribute money or vote for what you want to see me read!
– You can purchase eBooks or physical books from me to support what I’m doing! I’m now selling original short stories for $1 each twice a month. “Hell” is now out!

About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since '09.
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