In the eighth issue of Sandman, Morpheus experiences a momentary lapse in motivation, but someone from his life helps him come to terms with his restless soul. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read Sandman.
“The Sound of Her Wings”
I know that a lot of the time, these graphic novels aren’t written specifically to be split up into volumes or omnibus editions, and I don’t know that Gaiman planned this either. But breaking this story off at issue eight provides this powerful sense of closure to one part of the story, and opens up the possibility of a million more. I admit that after finishing the last issue, I wasn’t exactly sure where this story could go. If Morpheus had already retrieved all his Tools and powers, what on earth was he going to do next? Just return home? Go back to his old life? How could he even do that after seventy years of imprisonment? I’m drawn back to the Lord of the Rings again, which SPOILER ALERT is going to be referenced as much as humanly possible because I can’t believe I didn’t read/watch that series until I was 28. Anyway, Morpheus just went on his own journey of sorts, and it can’t be easy for him to just return to the same life he led at once time.
What this issue explores is the restless, unsatisfied aspect of Morpheus’s personality. I admit that there’s something kind of humorous about Morpheus hanging out in our world in jeans and a jacket, catching a soccer ball. He does seem out of his element, but I get that this is the point. When the unidentified woman shows up to talk to him, it really does feel awkward. Morpheus doesn’t say much, and even though I got the sense that these two were drawn to look like each other for a reason, I didn’t initially think they knew one another. She seemed to pick him out of a crowd in order to talk to him about Mary Poppins. Well, okay, not specifically about that. She recognized something was off, and she used that to start a conversation.
Once this woman said, “It isn’t like you,” I realized that they knew one another. So who was she? Why were these two so close? This isn’t answered for the duration of their conversation, which makes the next segment so much more powerful than it might have been otherwise. Instead, this is about Morpheus expressing his distaste for how things have turned out. It’s weird to him because he’s been freed from the ruby, and this catharsis hasn’t left him feeling satisfied. I like how meta this feels, as if it’s a commentary on the way this story has been told. Morpheus had a very specific purpose for the plot, and now that’s been resolved. I was satisfied with the seven issues prior to this, but how are there nearly seventy more? What’s the point of all this? In a way, all of this feels like a parallel between Morpheus and the experience of the reader.
We do find out this is Morpheus’s sister (which one????) when she offers to take her with him while she does her work. Like I just said, I really do love that Gaiman doesn’t tell us which Eternal she is. Instead, we watch her take lives as they exit the mortal world. Like Morpheus, there’s something really comforting about the sound of Death’s wings. What happens when she opens her wings? Is she transporting a soul? Sending it off to the next world or adventure? That’s not important. What’s crucial is understanding why this helps Morpheus. He sees firsthand how people greet his sister with fear. She reminds him that this rarely happens to him, that people “enter [his] realm each night without fear.” Yet at no point does Death seem to sulk about, even if she goes through a whole lot of shit to follow through on her responsibilities as one of the Endless Ones. We see page after page full of images of death, some more haunting than others (JESUS THAT BABY IN THE CRIB WTF), and we see that Death is content with what she does. Her life is this constant adventure and journey, and she chooses to make it that way.
I don’t know where Morpheus is heading, but I’m guessing that his contentment, inspired by his sister, is going to send him on a brand new adventure. He’s going to go off in the unknown purely for the sake of it. It’s very Gaiman to me, and it’s a story choice that feels so much like something he’d do. I can see how American Gods came after this, though many years later. This feels like it could be a much deeper exploration of the themes of that book and of dreams in general. For now, though, I like that this ends with such a genuinely joyous moment. Morpheus uses the sand of dreams to conjure birds, hearing the sound of their wings, and steps off into a new adventure.
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